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Monte Morris and the Looming NBA Draft Decision

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Statistically, Monte Morris is one of the best point guards in the country. But will he head to the professional level before his eligibility is exhausted at ISU?

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The end of the 2015-16 basketball season is going to feature a mass exodus for Iowa State. There's no questioning that. Gone will be All-American Georges Niang, 2015 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jameel McKay, and key forward Abdel Nader.

However, the thing that all Cyclone basketball fans will have on their minds heading into the offseason is whether star point guard Monte Morris will come back for his senior season, or leave school to pursue a life playing basketball in the NBA.

A variety of factors will go into Morris' decision. There's still a couple months of basketball to be played depending on how far Iowa State goes in the postseason, and during that time, Morris could drastically affect his draft stock via play on the court or his actions off it. At the moment, we can only use factors we know to predict what will happen.

There's valid arguments from both sides regarding the matter. Typically, you'll hear people say that Morris should come back for his last year because he needs to bulk up and improve his defense or he won't be able to make it playing against the bigger, stronger and quicker guards in the NBA (guys like Russell Westbrook, John Wall and Kyrie Irving immediately come to mind).

However, there's also a case to be made that Morris is the best point guard in the toughest conference in college basketball, and that could be enough to prove that he's ready to make the jump.

Regardless of which side you back, the common consensus is that in order to warrant leaving, Morris must aim to be drafted in the first round to make his payout worth it from a salary and guaranteed contract standpoint. The last pick of the first round is guaranteed a salary of $976,300 in their first season and $1,020,200 their second season, with the team holding options on the contract from the third season on.

Meanwhile, being drafted in the second round means the team gets to pick the player's salary, which could even be the NBA's minimum of $543,471 for a player with no years of service.

Knowing that, let's analyze Morris' situation with our eyes set on the first round.

Size

Below is a chart of the players who've been drafted in the first round of the draft since the 2010 season. Included is their measurements (in shoes) at the NBA combine preceding the draft of their respective years. At the top, you'll see Morris' measurements listed for comparison, as well as the averages of all first rounders and averages for players selected in the lottery (top 14 picks of each draft).

Note that this, and all other charts in this article, only include NCAA point guards and no international prospects.

Player Year College Pick Number Height (Inches) Weight (Pounds)
Average 1st Rounder N/A N/A 1st Round 75.2 189.4
Average Lottery Pick N/A N/A Lottery 75.4 191.9
Monte Morris 2016 Iowa State N/A 75 175.0
D'Angelo Russell 2015 Ohio State 2 77 193.0
Cameron Payne 2015 Murray State 14 74 183.0
Terry Rozier 2015 Louisville 16 74 190.0
Jerian Grant 2015 Notre Dame 19 76 198.0
Delon Wright 2015 Utah 20 78 181.0
Tyus Jones 2015 Duke 24 74 185.0
Marcus Smart 2014 Oklahoma State 6 75 227.0
Elfrid Payton 2014 Louisiana-Lafayette 10 76 185.0
Tyler Ennis 2014 Syracuse 18 75 182.0
Shabazz Napier 2014 UConn 24 73 175.0
Trey Burke 2013 Michigan 9 73 187.0
C.J. McCollum 2013 Lehigh 10 75 197.0
Tyler Ennis 2013 Syracuse 11 78 184.0
Shane Larkin 2013 Miami 18 72 171.0
Damian Lillard 2012 Weber State 6 75 189.0
Kendall Marshall 2012 North Carolina 13 76 198.0
Tony Wroten 2012 Washington 25 78 203.0
Marquis Teague 2012 Kentucky 29 74 180.0
Kyrie Irving 2011 Duke 1 76 191.0
Brandon Knight 2011 Kentucky 8 76 177.0
Kemba Walker 2011 UConn 9 73 184.0
Jimmer Fredette 2011 BYU 10 75 196.0
Nolan Smith 2011 Duke 21 76 188.0
Reggie Jackson 2011 Boston College 24 75 200.0
Norris Cole 2011 Cleveland State 28 74 174.0
Cory Joseph 2011 Texas 29 75 186.0
John Wall 2010 Kentucky 1 76 196.0
Eric Bledsoe 2010 Kentucky 18 74 192.0
Avery Bradley 2010 Texas 19 75 180.0
Greivis Vásquez 2010 Maryland 28 79 211.0

At 6-foot-3, Morris is right near the average height for point guards drafted in the past few years.

However, weighing in at just 175 pounds (according to his Cyclones.com profile) doesn't bode well for the junior, as it's roughly 14-16 pounds less than the average first rounder. Only Shabazz Napier, Shane Larkin and Norris Cole have been drafted weighing 175 pounds or less since 2010, and all three of those guys are shorter/stockier than Morris.

This backs up the theory that spending another offseason in Ames bulking up would be a benefit to the Flint, Michigan native.

Before moving on, let's also compare Morris' size to other current point guard prospects in the country.

Player Year College Pick Number Height (Inches) Weight (Pounds)
Average 2016 PG N/A N/A N/A 74.7 192.1
Monte Morris 2016 Iowa State N/A 75 175.0
Kris Dunn 2016 Providence N/A 75 220.0
Jamal Murray 2016 Kentucky N/A 76 207.0
Melo Trimble 2016 Maryland N/A 75 185.0
Wade Baldwin 2016 Vanderbilt N/A 75 194.0
Demetrius Jackson 2016 Notre Dame N/A 73 201.0
Gary Payton II 2016 Oregon State N/A 75 190.0
Isaiah Briscoe 2016 Kentucky N/A 75 202.0
Kahlil Felder 2016 Oakland N/A 69 176.0
Isaiah Cousins 2016 Oklahoma N/A 76 200.0
Marcus Paige 2016 North Carolina N/A 74 175.0
Anthony Barber 2016 NC State N/A 74 180.0
Isaiah Taylor 2016 Texas N/A 75 185.0
Tyrone Wallace 2016 California N/A 77 205.0
Caris LeVert 2016 Michigan N/A 79 205.0
Malik Newman 2016 Mississippi State N/A 75 190.0
Tim Quarterman 2016 LSU N/A 78 190.0
Tyler Ulis 2016 Kentucky N/A 69 160.0

The averages are about the same for this group of players, with Kahlil Felder and Tyler Ulis bringing down the average height slightly compared to players who've been drafted since 2010. Still, if the weights listed for these prospects are accurate, Morris is tied for the second lightest with North Carolina's Marcus Paige just behind Ulis (who's miniature for NBA standards).

So, as far as size is concerned, Morris is right where he needs to be for height in order to fit in around the NBA. However, adding some muscle during the offseason would probably help him be better prepared for the professional ranks.

Stats

Here's what first rounders have averaged per 40 minutes during their final season of college ball, as well as Morris' stats and the averages again for a direct comparison.

Player Points Assists Rebounds Steals Blocks Turnovers
Average 1st Rounder 20.0 5.6 5.1 1.7 0.4 3.2
Average Lottery Pick 21.5 6.2 5.2 2.0 0.4 3.3
Monte Morris 16.1 7.5 4.2 2.0 0.3 1.4
D'Angelo Russell 22.7 5.9 6.7 1.9 0.4 3.4
Cameron Payne 25.1 7.4 4.6 2.4 0.6 3.1
Terry Rozier 19.5 3.4 6.3 2.3 0.2 2.5
Jerian Grant 17.8 7.2 3.3 1.8 0.5 2.3
Delon Wright 17.5 6.1 5.9 2.5 1.2 2.3
Tyus Jones 13.9 6.6 4.1 1.8 0.1 2.3
Marcus Smart 22.0 5.8 7.2 3.5 0.7 3.2
Elfrid Payton 21.4 6.6 6.7 2.5 0.7 4.0
Tyler Ennis 14.5 6.2 3.8 2.3 0.2 1.9
Shabazz Napier 20.5 5.6 6.7 2.1 0.4 3.2
Trey Burke 21.1 7.5 3.6 1.8 0.6 2.5
C.J. McCollum 30.9 3.8 6.5 1.8 0.4 3.4
Michael Carter-Williams 13.5 8.3 5.6 3.1 0.6 3.9
Shane Larkin 15.9 5.0 4.2 2.2 0.1 2.5
Damian Lillard 28.4 4.6 5.8 1.7 0.3 2.7
Kendall Marshall 9.9 11.8 3.2 1.4 0.2 3.4
Tony Wroten 21.1 4.9 6.6 2.5 0.5 5.0
Marquis Teague 12.3 5.6 3.1 1.1 0.3 3.3
Kyrie Irving 25.3 6.2 4.9 2.1 0.8 3.6
Brandon Knight 19.3 4.7 4.5 0.7 0.2 3.5
Kemba Walker 25.0 4.8 5.8 2.0 0.2 2.4
Jimmer Fredette 32.3 4.8 3.8 1.5 0.0 4.0
Nolan Smith 24.3 6.0 5.3 1.4 0.1 3.7
Reggie Jackson 21.3 5.2 5.0 1.2 0.6 2.8
Norris Cole 24.3 5.9 6.5 2.5 0.1 3.0
Cory Joseph 12.9 3.7 4.4 1.3 0.4 1.9
John Wall 19.1 7.5 4.9 2.0 0.6 4.6
Eric Bledsoe 14.9 3.8 4.1 1.9 0.4 4.0
Avery Bradley 15.8 2.8 3.9 1.8 0.7 2.1
Greivis Vásquez 23.1 7.4 5.5 2.0 0.4 4.0

This table suggests that it's hard to find a player who's really close to Morris statistically, but when you add a few advanced stats, one draftee begins to stand out.

Player Player Efficiency Rating True Shooting % Usage Percentage
Average 1st Rounder 24.4 56.2 26.5
Average Lottery Pick 27.1 56.4 28.7
Monte Morris 23.0 58.0 18.9
D'Angelo Russell 26.6 57.3 30.2
Cameron Payne 30.1 57.3 31.5
Terry Rozier 22.1 50.9 27.8
Jerian Grant 25.5 59.2 24.2
Delon Wright 29.2 61.9 22.8
Tyus Jones 20.4 57.5 18.7
Marcus Smart 26.9 55.2 29.2
Elfrid Payton 25.2 55.1 27.6
Tyler Ennis 21.3 51.1 21.9
Shabazz Napier 25.5 59.1 27.5
Trey Burke 28.7 56.9 28.3
C.J. McCollum 34.7 62.8 37.2
Michael Carter-Williams 20.9 49.1 22.2
Shane Larkin 22.6 60.0 21.3
Damian Lillard 34.0 63.5 33.0
Kendall Marshall 17.2 55.8 13.9
Tony Wroten 20.4 48.8 31.2
Marquis Teague 13.2 49.1 20.2
Kyrie Irving 32.5 69.7 26.4
Brandon Knight 19.3 55.3 27.0
Kemba Walker 29.9 54.3 32.4
Jimmer Fredette 30.9 59.4 37.8
Nolan Smith 25.7 56.4 30.7
Reggie Jackson 26.9 61.8 27.2
Norris Cole 30.0 55.8 32.1
Cory Joseph 15.1 52.6 17.3
John Wall 22.3 56.2 25.7
Eric Bledsoe 14.5 56.6 20.4
Avery Bradley 14.9 49.6 20.4
Greivis Vásquez 25.6 54.9 30.2


Tyus Jones, last year's freshman point guard for the national champion Duke Blue Devils, had a similarly low usage percentage as Morris during his only year of college ball. If you check out NBADraft.net's strength and weakness evaluations of Jones from last year, you'll feel like you're reading a description of Morris' playing style while he's been at Iowa State.

That stat, usage percentage, might be the single most important offensive statistic going against Morris' draft resume. Besides Jones and former North Carolina distributor Kendall Marshall, Morris' usage percentage would be the lowest drafted in the first round of the NBA draft since 2010. Usage percentage is defined as:

An estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player when he was on the floor.

Thus, playing on a team with other talented players has limited Morris when it comes to usage percentage. It's not necessarily a bad thing for Iowa State that they've had players to rely on other than Morris, but so many other point guards have been relied on to make plays for their teams in the past, and that typically gives NBA scouts a better idea of what they're dealing with when it comes to a certain athlete. Morris has upped his usage percentage in every season in Ames, but it's still below the typical first round point guard level.

Let's continue by checking out Morris' stats compared to other point guards this year. Again, all stats are per 40 minutes of play.

Player Points Assists Rebounds Steals Blocks Turnovers
Average 2016 PG 19.2 5.8 5.3 1.7 0.4 2.9
Monte Morris 16.1 7.5 4.2 2.0 0.3 1.4
Kris Dunn 20.3 7.9 7.0 3.6 0.9 4.2
Jamal Murray 21.9 2.6 5.6 1.3 0.2 2.9
Melo Trimble 17.7 6.6 3.7 1.6 0.3 3.3
Wade Baldwin 19.9 6.5 5.3 1.8 0.4 3.9
Demetrius Jackson 18.9 5.7 3.9 1.6 0.4 2.3
Gary Payton II 18.9 6.1 9.0 2.9 0.6 2.8
Isaiah Briscoe 12.4 4.3 6.5 2.2 0.3 3.9
Kahlil Felder 26.9 9.9 4.3 2.3 0.2 3.7
Isaiah Cousins 16.8 5.5 5.6 1.8 0.4 2.4
Marcus Paige 17.0 4.8 3.2 1.7 0.5 1.4
Anthony Barber 24.9 4.7 4.7 0.6 0.1 2.5
Isaiah Taylor 19.7 6.6 3.7 1.3 0.2 2.3
Tyrone Wallace 18.7 5.4 6.4 1.3 0.7 3.4
Caris LeVert 21.3 6.4 6.9 1.3 0.3 2.2
Malik Newman 17.1 2.9 3.9 0.6 0.1 3.6
Tim Quarterman 16.4 5.1 7.0 1.3 0.5 2.3
Tyler Ulis 18.3 7.3 3.4 1.7 0.1 2.1

And the advanced stats.

Player Player Efficiency Rating True Shooting % Usage Percentage
Average 2016 PG 21.8 55.6 24.8
Monte Morris 23.0 58.0 18.9
Kris Dunn 24.8 52.7 28.6
Jamal Murray 20.5 56.1 27.2
Melo Trimble 21.2 58.9 23.9
Wade Baldwin 22.3 61.1 25.4
Demetrius Jackson 23.9 58.1 24.3
Gary Payton II 26.8 54.1 25.6
Isaiah Briscoe 12.5 45.5 20.0
Kahlil Felder 29.1 57.8 31.1
Isaiah Cousins 18.9 53.8 21.7
Marcus Paige 18.8 55.2 19.5
Anthony Barber 25.1 56.6 29.6
Isaiah Taylor 21.9 52.4 27.0
Tyrone Wallace 19.9 52.0 27.1
Caris LeVert 28.8 63.6 25.7
Malik Newman 13.4 53.6 22.7
Tim Quarterman 18.9 55.3 20.3
Tyler Ulis 24.0 58.2 21.6

That usage percentage stands out again in this list, as Morris holds the lowest of this year's crop of NBA draft point guard prospects. However, he does hold a PER and true shooting % higher than the average of all these players (true shooting % is the measure of shooting efficiency that takes into 2-point field goals, 3-point field goals, and free throws).

So What Does It Mean?

To me, the stats above all point to one thing, and that's coming back to Iowa State for one year being a great idea for Monte Morris as far as proving his NBA worth goes.

BUT.

While coming back another year would surely help Morris add some muscle, allow him to showcase more of his talent for scoring the ball and get better on the defensive side of the ball, there are so many factors that go into getting drafted that are out of his control. Many experts believe that this year's class is weaker than the crop of players coming out in 2017, and of course, there's always the chance that Morris could hurt himself playing college ball during his senior season.

The NBA drafts largely based on potential. If a guy has a chance of blossoming into an All-Star five to eight years down the road, that's sometimes enough for some teams to take a player above another who's played much better statistically in college. Morris has certainly been a great floor general for ISU, and he has the statistics to back it up (NCAA record assist/turnover ratio says hello!), but does he have much upside?

As it stands right now, mock drafts have Morris going anywhere from late in the first round to going undrafted. If that holds true, then it's going to be extremely risky for him to leave after this season unless he gets promised that he'll be taken in the first round by a team's front office.

The nice part is, the NCAA has enacted a new plan for underclassmen who want to declare for the NBA Draft in 2016. Going forward, underclassmen declaring for the draft no longer forfeit their remaining eligibility immediately. Instead, they can attend the draft combine and even work out for an NBA team before making an official decision.

The new withdrawal date is set for May 25 (10 days after the conclusion of the draft combine), meaning Morris could attend the combine and still come back to Iowa State -  so long as he doesn't hire an agent and says he's coming back before the end of the day on May 25.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Morris declare for the draft following the season, test the waters, then choose to come back for his senior season. No one knows for sure what's going to happen at this point except for Morris, and even he might base his decision heavily on what happens over the next few months. A deep NCAA Tournament run would only help his stock, much like it helped the statistically-similar Tyus Jones last year when he helped Duke win it all.

Regardless, enjoy these last few weeks of the season. For all we know, they could be the last we ever see of one of the all-time greatest point guards to ever play for Iowa State University. It's been a privilege to watch Monte Morris play, and selfishly, I hope we get to watch him ball out one more season in a Cyclone uniform.