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NBA Draft Destinations: Monte Morris

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ISU’s all-time assist and steals leader is leaving - where should he play in the NBA?

NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma State at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

The season is over for all but two NBA teams, so there was a lot of excitement surrounding the recent NBA draft lottery. Boston grabbed the #1 pick, the Lakers managed to hold onto their lottery pick (no one’s surprised? Good.), and Knicks stuff happened to the Knicks.

Out of Iowa State’s highly-decorated senior class, Monte Morris has the best NBA prospects. Mock drafts have listed Monte as a likely second round pick going anywhere from #60 to the Hawks (The Ringer), the Wizards at #52 (DraftExpress) or the Spurs at #59 (Bleacher Report). Monte’s agent, Ron Shade, said Monte could go anywhere in the 25-40 range, but that sounds like an agent doing his job and trying to talk up his guy’s stock.

So far, Monte has had solid showings at the NBA combine and worked out individually for a few different teams. Big 12 aficionado Fran Fraschilla had this to say recently about Monte and how playing under Fred Hoiberg helped him develop as a player:

“Fred helped him out – he’ll walk into an NBA summer league, NBA training camp, he already understands spacing, pick and roll basketball. He reads coverages well because of Fred’s NBA influence.”

Despite the positive buzz, Monte faces some big hurdles – namely a draft class flush with point guard talent. It’s already something of a golden era for point guards in the NBA, and three NBA-ready point guards (Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, and De’Aaron Fox) could be taken in the top five on draft night. After those three, Dennis Smith and Frank Ntilinika are still projected as late-lottery talents, and fellow Big 12 guards Jawun Evans and Frank Mason III will get good looks from teams.

Here’s a quick recap of what Monte Morris brings to the table:

Nevada v Iowa State Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Strengths:

  • All-time NCAA leader in assist-to-turnover ratio leader (and it’s not close).
  • Excellent game manager with good ball control.
  • Good instincts and hands on defense, which helps make up for average athleticism.
  • Uses change of pace to get by people.
  • Great character and work ethic. Could thrive given the chance to learn behind a star PG (a la freshman year behind DeAndre Kane).
  • Wants the ball in his hand for big moments and has knack for getting a basket right when the team needs it – has his finger on the game pulse.
  • Played in an NBA-style offense, knows how to use pick and roll and space the floor.

Weaknesses:

  • Needs to add strength to his frame.
  • Not a great athlete, will struggle to defend elite starting PGs (Wall, Westbrook, Irving, Curry, etc.) or even athletic back ups.
  • Decent size (6’2”) but not tall or long or physical enough to guard two positions.
  • Okay 3-pt shooter in college. He improved every year, but it’s not clear whether he’ll be reliable from deep at NBA range.
  • Struggles at times to finish in traffic.
  • Good handle on the ball but doesn’t have the speed/moves combo to penetrate the paint at will – might be an issue against NBA size and defensive schemes.

Bottom line – Monte is about as steady hand a hand as you’ll find and he knows how to run an NBA offense. Bulking up might help two of his biggest weaknesses (finishing through contact and hitting from NBA 3-point range), but there will still be questions of how well he’ll defend at the NBA level. Most projections have Monte growing into a role as a reliable backup point guard.

Here are all the possible landing places for Monte Morris, ranked (no particular order within tiers).

Tier 6 - Retire from basketball immediately

Sacramento Kings v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Sacramento Kings - #5, 10, 34

  • This team is so poorly run that NBA agents are actively trying to keep their players from working out for or meeting with the Kings.
  • Their front office is basically a big empty room that smells like fart. If the Kings draft you, you should throw on a fake nose and sunglasses and run for the exit.

Tier 5 – Terrible Fit

Orlando Magic v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Orlando Magic - #6, 25, 33, 35

  • They’re not the Kings, but yikes they are close. Bad front office (that finally found a new GM in John Hammond), roster with a lot of ill-fitting pieces – all-around not pretty.

New Orleans Pelicans - #40

  • No one wants to play with Boogie Cousins. Anthony Davis was excited about it for exactly one quarter and now they’re all waiting to sink into the ocean together.
  • Roster is full of hybrid guards.
  • They’re the PELICANS. Couldn’t they have rock-paper-scissored with Utah for the rights to get “Jazz” back?

Minnesota Timberwolves - #7

  • Fellow member of the “Our Original Team Moved and Took the Cool Nickname With Them” club (see above).
  • Would be one of 5(!!!) PGs on the roster (Ricky Rubio, Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn, Tyus Jones) and have to play under a coach famous for his short rotation. Not a recipe for career success.

Oklahoma City Thunder - #21

  • Pro: play on the same team as active volcano Russell Westbrook.
  • Con: play on the same team as active volcano Russell Westbrook.

New York Knicks - # 8, 44, 58

  • Hey, an Iowa State guy!
  • Oh god, it’s Phil Jackson.
  • Oh god, it’s the triangle.
  • OH MY GOD ITS JAMES DOLAN, RUN.
  • Also, there’s a good chance they snag a PG at #8. Whew.

Tier 4 – Poor Fit

Denver Nuggets v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Dallas Mavericks - #9

  • Smart owner and solid front office.
  • Setting up for a quick post-Dirk rebuild around Harrison Barnes and Nerlens Noel.
  • Could use a reliable PG, but their only pick is #9, so if they decide that’s their biggest need they should have some decent choices in the lottery.

Boston Celtics - #1, 37, 53, 56

  • Great organization and probably the best young coach in the game, but...
  • They’re loaded with guards already and they’ll probably take Fultz with the #1 pick.

Brooklyn Nets - #22, 27, 57

  • Every year when someone asks you how the Brooklyn Nets are doing, you can respond with this Mad Men gif:

Milwaukee - #17, 48

  • Young, dynamic playoff team that could contend in the East for years.
  • Already have a young, steady ball handler in Malcom Brogdon, not to mention the Greek Freak at point-forward. Jason Kidd has shown a tendency to play without a traditional PG, so they might not be interested in a true PG prospect in the first place.
  • Still … always a chance Milwaukee takes Monte at #48 if he’s still available, given how disappointing Matthew Dellavedova was last season.

Atlanta - #19, 31, 60

  • No indication they’re looking to add a PG behind “German Rondo” Dennis Schroeder.
  • Dwight Howard suuuuuuuuuucks. Look how much fun every team has when he leaves. Nobody wants to play with this guy.

Charlotte - # 11, 41

  • See Michael Jordan once in a while.
  • That’s it.
  • Okay there’s more: Charlotte is one of the slowest tempo teams in the NBA and doesn’t have a ton of shooting on the roster, all of which translates to less space to work with on offense. Boring and not a great fit.

L.A. Clippers – no draft picks

  • Remember that team of guys at the gym who always play together no matter what? They’re already pretty good, but then they hack the shit out of you on defense and then cry foul if you breathe too hard on them? That’s the Clippers. Good, annoying, dysfunctional, and you really want to punch them. Thankfully, the Clips don’t have a pick.

L.A. Lakers - #2, 28

  • Young and interesting team with a promising young coach in Luke Walton.
  • Already set at PG (De’Angelo Russell), almost certain they’ll take Lonzo Ball at #2 (OR trade down for De’Aron Fox).
  • Does anyone want to play for the “Lavar Ball Show-Time Lakers?” Does Lonzo even want to?

Phoenix - #4, 32, 54

  • Set at PG with Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight (plus Tyler Ulis off the bench).

Memphis – No picks

  • Stacked with young PG depth behind Mike Conley (Wade Baldwin IV, Andrew Harrison), and no picks anyway.

Utah - #24, 30, 42, 55

  • Gordon Hayward is one of the biggest free agents on the market this summer, and it’s a coin toss on whether he stays or leaves. If he leaves, there could be some significant roster changes to help keep the team in playoff contention.
  • George Hill could also leave in free agency, but there’s more PGs waiting in the wings (Dante Exum is the immediate back up). They do have two picks each round (#24, 30, 42 and 55), so they could always take Monte in the second round as insurance for George Hill leaving.

Tier 3 – Okay Fit

Oklahoma City Thunder v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Philadelphia 76ers - #3, 36, 39, 46, 50

  • The Process is for REAL – when Joel Embiid is healthy, the team spaces the floor well and is super exciting to watch.
  • Also, Ben Simmons will be healthy, hopefully.
  • Good shot at landing a shooter and/or scorer (Josh Jackson/Jayson Tatum/Malik Monk) with the #3 pick.
  • Speaking of health issues … can we get them a real team doctor? Adam Silver should slap them with a warning label like cigarette packs: playing for Philadelphia might be hazardous to your health and could shorten your NBA career by 3-6 years.

Chicago Bulls - #16, 38

  • HEY LOOK IT’S FRED HOIBERG!
NBA: Golden State Warriors at Chicago Bulls David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
  • Gar Forman and John Paxson are approaching Knicks/Kings level of incompetence.
  • There are lots of roster questions (again) to deal with in the offseason and the front office doesn’t inspire confidence in its decision making. Keep Jimmy Butler or trade him? What do they do with Wade, Rondo, and Mirotic’s contracts? How can nobody on this roster shoot? As much as it’d be fun to see the Mayor-Monte reunion … sorry everyone, I don’t want Monte to wind up on the Bulls.
  • Even IF Rondo’s not on the roster, there’s four other young PGs to compete with for playing time (Cameron Payne, Jerian Grant, Isaiah Canaan, AND Michael Carter-Williams).

Cleveland Cavaliers – No picks

  • Sometimes it works out to ride an all-timer’s coattails (looking at you, Mario Chalmers).
  • Aging bench that will need to be overhauled, could get decent playing time especially with Kyrie Irving’s history of injury trouble.
  • Okay so I buried the lede here … Cleveland doesn’t have a pick, so as interesting as this possibility is, it’s not happening barring a trade on draft night.

Miami Heat - #14

  • Pat Riley Factor: mastermind GM.
  • Good coach, strange roster still being rebuilt post-Big 3.
  • No state income tax, that’s pretty cool.
  • Miami’s only pick is the tail end of the lottery at #14, so this is also a pretty unlikely landing spot.

Golden State Warriors – No picks

  • Another pipe dream – no picks on draft night.

Houston Rockets - #43, 35

  • Okay PG depth, but Harden has the bulk of ball-handling responsibility anyway.
  • Moreyball equals lots of shooting and pick and roll offense. Almost nothing else, in fact. If he can get on the court, there’d be a lot of space for Monte to operate with.

Portland Trail Blazers - #15, 20, 26

  • They don’t have great depth behind Damian Lillard, but their picks are all mid-late first round so there’s little chance they take Monte that early.

Indiana Pacers - #18, 47

  • There’s a lot of uncertainty around the organization with Larry Bird stepping down and LOTS of speculation on Paul George being traded. This roster could look totally different on draft night so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
  • Georges Niang reunion!

Toronto Raptors - #23

  • Kyle Lowry just opted out and is an unrestricted free agent. He could always re-sign, but even if he does he’s hitting the end of his prime and Toronto could be looking to move on.
  • Serge Ibaka could also leave in free agency, so Toronto has to ready a lot of contingency plans ahead of the draft.
  • Bottom line, Toronto might be even more of an uncertain situation than Indiana. A lot of teams have a TON of cap space so offers for Lowry and Ibaka could balloon to ridiculous amounts. Toronto could keep both, one, or neither, and none of those three options would be a big surprise.
  • See Drake once in a while at every home game.

Tier 2 – Good Fit

Golden State Warriors v Denver Nuggets Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Denver Nuggets - #13, 49, 51

  • Young starter in Emmanuel Mudiay, but not much depth behind him (Jameer Nelson is O-L-D).
  • Nikola Jokic is a wizard with the ball and can easily initiate the offense as well – could help Monte develop playing off the ball or as the secondary ball handler coming off the bench.
  • Lots of tall shooting guards/wings he could play alongside.

Detroit Pistons - #12

  • Home-state factor for Monte (Flint, MI native).
  • Could get decent playing time behind Reggie Jackson, especially if they let Kentavius Caldwell-Pope walk.
  • Only pick is #12, so he likely won’t end up on Detroit unless they trade down for more picks.

Washington Wizards - #52

  • They clearly need some bench depth after John Wall and Bradley Beal ran out of gas in Game 7 vs. the Celtics.
  • Scott Brooks has improved as a coach … but still does weird lineup things and doesn’t use his bench as often as he should.

Tier 1 – Great Fit

San Antonio Spurs v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Six Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

San Antonio Spurs - #29, 59

  • Best organization and best coach in the NBA (Pop is an all-time great).
  • Masters of developing young, underrated talent into effective role-players or even starters
  • Track record is gold – they’ve been playoff contenders for the last 20 years.
  • One of the top shooting coaches in the NBA.
  • Tony Parker might be done (35 years old and coming off serious injury). Monte could be #3 behind Patty Mills and Dejounte Murray – who is tall enough he and Monte could be on the floor together.
  • Seriously, who wouldn’t want to play for Pop?

That’s all, thanks for reading. Find me on Twitter @just_BGood.