OKC Thunder coach Billy Donovan unveiled a Markieff Morris-Patrick Patterson front court. Should OKC look into it further?
In the win over the Detroit Pistons, OKC Thunder coach Billy Donovan was forced to try a new front-court pairing thanks to foul trouble to Steven Adams and Nerlens Noel. To many surprise, Donovan elected to run a Markieff Morris–Patrick Patterson partnership that presents a number of interesting possibilities.
Morris has been terrible since joining Oklahoma City averaging six points and 3.2 rebounds on 36.4 percent shooting and 32 percent from three. He was required just after the February deadline to take Patterson’s minutes at power forward. 2-Pat is averaging 3.7 points and 2.4 rebounds on 37.4 percent shooting and 33.6 percent from three.
Both players have struggled with inconsistency with one filling the stretch-four role OKC need (Patterson) while the other loves living in the mid-range (Morris). Is Oklahoma City’s move to replace Patterson with Morris justified?
Morris is a poor-man’s Carmelo Anthony
Pat lost his job to Morris with the vision of the latter adding scoring to the second unit. While Morris has added some scoring, his game mirrors that of Carmelo Anthony – the future hall of famer who was consistently criticized for his love of the mid-range. OKC fans were extremely unhappy with Melo’s tenure in Oklahoma City and its confusing why the Thunder elected to acquire a player with a similar game.
His shooting percentages certainly don’t warrant the comparison. Melo had a terrible year in the Mid-West struggling to accept his role but Morris has yet to get himself going from the mid-range. As it stands, Morris has a reputation of being a mid-range gunner but it has yet to materialize in Oklahoma City.
To make things worse, Morris is an average defender at best. Like Anthony, Morris is ground bound, struggles to guard modern day power forwards and regularly misses defensive assignments in OKC’s switch-heavy defense. Coming over from Washington with the reputation of being an average defender at best, the Thunder’s switch-heavy defense magnifies Morris’ flaws on that side of the ball.
With these in mind, is Morris suited playing with Patterson?
Both Morris and Patterson are terrible rebounder’s. Aside from this, the two have complimentary skill sets that on the surface, work well together. Coach Donovan has played Morris as a small-ball five, a role that’s suited the veteran’s style thanks to his preference to play in the mid-range and play bully-ball on the block. Additionally, Morris is a physical specimen who plays big men tough. His most recent performance on Detroit’s Andre Drummond, Zaza Pachulia and Blake Griffin was impressive.
The veteran appears to be best playing at the center spot in small line-ups.
Patterson is a long-range sniper who moves the ball well and is an excellent team and on-ball defender. Yes – he has struggled with consistency shooting the ball this season but career numbers tell a bigger story than just this season. 2-Pat is a career 36.7 percent 3-point shooter and has shown stretches of games where he’s shot above 40 percent.
He is the flip-side of Morris – a power forward who shoots the ball well from deep and reliable on the defensive side of the ball. He doesn’t put up the overall numbers Morris does but 2-Pat is reliable and rarely makes defensive mistakes.
Is a match Donovan should explore
Given their respective skills, Donovan should look to the play the two together. While their time on-court is dependent on specific match-ups, playing Morris as the four in the second unit has failed to fire. Morris needs space to operate and playing Patterson on the perimeter will open the floor. Jerami Grant cannot play all 48 minutes thus this seems like a logical match to emulate an inside-out offensive game plan.
While many fans will question why this pairing warrants stealing minutes from Adams and Noel, the answer is neither one of OKC’s big men can shoot outside 10-feet of the hoop. Adams is a physical, throw-back center while Noel is an athletic big man who plays primarily above the rim. Morris can play both inside and out, giving the Thunder another option outside Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Dennis Schroder.
While we have only seen a small glimpse of a Morris-Patterson pairing, one hopes Oklahoma city look to explore this further. The more options OKC have, the further it will take them in the playoffs.
With playoffs around the corner, it’s now or never.