To put it frankly, it’s quite perplexing that Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan insists that Kyle Singler be ahead of Anthony Morrow in the rotation.
Morrow’s coming off one of the best seasons of his career, a year in which he averaged 10.7 points, the most he’s contributed to a team since 2011-12. He converted 43.4 percent from three, which ranked seventh in the NBA, and set a career high and team high with 141 triples in the process.
With this in mind, Morrow deserves the nod to come off the bench to be Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant’s (when healthy) running mate. He’s a dangerous shooter who doesn’t require a lot of touches to be effective, and he can consistently make defenses pay if and when they try to double-up elsewhere.
The key word in Donovan’s new offense is spacing. When you look back to some of Donovan’s best teams at Florida, they always had a skilled shooter in the starting rotation, whether it was Bradley Beal, Mike Miler or Chandler Parsons, among others.
Donovan is implementing an offensive system centered on spacing, and space is provided by shooters. Morrow is the Thunder’s best shooter, making it strange that he’s rarely getting off the bench.
Donovan has said Morrow isn’t in the doghouse and will have a place with the Thunder this season. You’d think so. A guy who can shoot like he does could help most teams.
But Morrow’s weakness has always been his defense, and the Thunder already have loads of offensive weaponry in the lineup. Maybe Morrow’s defense is just too bad to get him on the floor, but it’d sure be nice to see him get extended minutes to provide that extra spacing. Donovan has said he prefers Singler’s defense over Morrow’s, but Singler’s defense isn’t all that special either.
Meanwhile, Singler’s offensive numbers have been awful. He’s shooting 24 percent from the field on 21 shot attempts and averaging 2.3 points in 13.2 minutes per game. That’s unsettling.
Listen, I get Singler’s skill set. He’s 6-foot-8, long-armed and can theoretically guard multiple positions. He came to the Thunder as a near-40 percent career three-point shooter. But since he’s been on the Thunder, dating back to the trade deadline last season, what exactly has he done to deserve the minutes he’s been getting? He hasn’t done anything this year besides put up shooting splits of 23.8/27.3/60, foul, turn the ball over and more importantly cut into Morrow’s minutes. That’s a problem.
With the increase in Singler’s minutes, Morrow’s minutes are going in the wrong direction. Morrow played 22 minutes in the Thunder’s 112-106 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on opening night. Then he played 14 minutes in a double-overtime victory at Orlando. And 16 minutes on Nov. 1 against Denver.
But since then, Morrow has played five minutes vs. Houston, six minutes vs. Toronto, five minutes vs. Chicago, a DNP vs. Phoenix (Donovan said this was because of matchups) and 14 minutes vs Washington.
Here are his numbers over these two time periods:
Morrow first three games – 17.1 MPG, 42.9 FG%, 45.0 3P%
Morrow last four games – 8 MPG, 11 FG%, 0-5 from three.
Morrow was excellent offensively in the first three games because he was given minutes early to find his shot, and it’s easy to find spacing and good shots with Durant and Westbrook on the floor.
In Morrow’s previous five games he played a total of 30 minutes, 14 of which came in a blowout win against Washington (Durant also got hurt in this game). It’s hard to get a rhythm going and make an impact as a shooter when you’re coming in late in the third and fourth quarters.
With the recent injury to Durant, it’ll be interesting to see who Donovan decides to replace him with in the starting lineup. Singler, Morrow and Dion Waiters are all options.
I’d expect Dion Waiters to start in Durant’s place, with Andre Roberson sliding over to small forward. But just like last season when Durant was out, I’d expect to see Morrow’s minutes increase this week. Hopefully it’ll be enough to prove that Morrow deserves more playing time than Singler.