Morris ready to take his game to another level with Wizards originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
When the Wizards agreed to a trade with the Nuggets sending Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith to Denver for Monte Morris and Will Barton, they effectively turned one of the best backup point guards in the NBA into a starter.
Morris, 27, has been a backup his entire career, but now he has a chance to establish himself in the league as a starting floor general alongside star two-guard Bradley Beal. It’s an opportunity Morris is excited to embark on.
“I played a role in Denver, so many years just playing behind Jamal [Murray], and I was playing like 18 to 20 minutes but averaging double figures and things like that,” Morris told NBC Sports Washington‘s Chris Miller on the Off the Bench podcast. “I’m excited to finally just get my opportunity to play more extended minutes and actually show the world more of what I’m capable of. That’s leading, my character and just my willingness and drive to win and make others around me better.”
From 2018-21, Morris provided the Nuggets with stable point guard play behind their star, Jamal Murray. He averaged 9.9 points, 3.5 assists, 2.1 rebounds, shooting 47.9% from the floor and 39.4% from three in roughly 24 minutes per game.
Once Murray went down at the end of the 2020-21 season with a torn ACL, Morris assumed the starting role for a Nuggets team vying for a title. Injuries to Murray and eventually Michael Porter Jr. derailed those championship aspirations for Denver, but from the 2021 playoffs to the Nuggets’ first-round playoff loss to Golden State in 2022, Morris proved he was more than just a backup.
2021 playoffs: 13.7 PPG / 5.5 APG / 43.1% FG / 40% 3P
2021-22 regular season: 12.6 PPG / 4.4 APG / 48.4% FG / 39.5% 3P
2022 playoffs: 14.0 PPG / 5.4 APG / 49% FG / 42.3% 3P
Morris started 79 of the 80 games he played in 2021-22, including the playoffs. His former Denver teammate who comes with him to Washington, Will Barton believes Morris’ season as a starter will only motivate him to do more with the Wizards.
“I think it helped him see himself in a different light,” Barton told Miller. “He was already one of the best backup point guards in the league, but then he got the opportunity to start and he played well and we won. It helped him to see himself as a starter in the league and want more from himself and his career. Once you have a taste of success you’re always going to want more.”
The Wizards aren’t strangers to watching newly acquired players grow with a more featured role. Just last season, Kyle Kuzma established himself as Washington’s second-best player after he was traded by the Lakers. They started him at power forward, leaned on his shot-making in clutch situations and even asked him to facilitate the offense once Beal was lost for the season with a wrist injury.
Kuzma averaged career highs in minutes, shot attempts, rebounds and assists while dropping 17 points a night on 45% shooting from the floor and 34% from three. In Morris, the Wizards will likely hope for another career year from a new acquisition.
“Wes [Unseld Jr.] knows me very well,” Morris said. “He knows what I’m capable of, the shots I’m capable of making… I played my role the best I could [with the Nuggets], and now I’m ready to show I got more than what people have seen in Denver… I’m gonna give it my all. I’m a go-getter. I play very hard and take this game very seriously.”