After the dust settled on the frenzied start to the 2013 offseason in New Orleans that saw Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans acquired for draft picks, Robin Lopez, and Greivis Vasquez, Dell Demps and Monty Williams were looking for a shooter to come off the bench, presumably to pair with Tyreke Evans. A lot of talk circled around Chris Copeland early in the offseason, but Indiana snagged him for $6.12M over two years. With the number of Three and D players rapidly dwindling, Demps signed Anthony Morrow for the veterans minimum for two years, with the second year a player's option.
The signing was an unqualified success for New Orleans - Morrow regained his early career form in the Crescent City, ranking fourth in the league in three point shooting percentage among those with at least 100 attempts. As his three-point shooting rebounded, so did his mid-range game - he shot just shy of 50% from 3 to 16 feet this season. Morrow's expansion of his game into scoring off the dribble and in the mid-range made him a key component of the Pelicans offense this season. Morrow will almost certainly decline to exercise his player option and hit the free agent market this offseason. Given that the salary cap is expected to take a significant jump next season and the dearth of quality free agents, it's likely that he could fetch more than the mid-level exception in the offseason. And good for him - he deserves it for his performance this season.
Though he has almost certainly played his last game as a Pelican, he was the heart and soul down the stretch of a team that spent more time in the training room than on the court. He made big shots, he provided a big lift off the bench, and he will be missed next season.
A Limited Role Early
Morrow started off the season relatively hot on offense, doing what he was hired to do - knock down threes. Through his first 8 games, he shot over 60% on 24 three point attempts, and he was getting substantial minutes. His defensive limitations slowly sent him into Monty's doghouse. In the first 13 games, Morrow played around 18 minutes per game. In the 28 games that followed, however, Morrow played fewer and fewer minutes. He averaged 13 minutes per game over the stretch, and his playing time was declining . His lackluster defensive effort wasn't the only factor, though. He shot only 40% from the field in those 28 games, and he wasn't taking many threes - less than two per game. It wasn't particularly clear what his role on the team would be.
A couple of factors were critical in Morrow's resurgence in the second half of the season. The first was the injuries to Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson in early January. Holiday's absence opened up more time in the backcourt for Morrow, who mostly played as a shooting guard this season. Anderson's absence meant that Monty had to find a shooter to space the floor, and Morrow was the natural pick. The second was his dramatic return from an illness that kept him out of three games in late January. In his first game back, he carried the Pelicans to victory against the Pistons in Auburn Hills, making 7 of his 11 shots and 4 of 5 from deep for 21 points. He even snagged a couple of steals. From there on out, Morrow averaged 22.5 minutes per game and shot 46% both from beyond the arc and inside the arc.
His game expanded well beyond just shooting threes - he flashed an ability to get to the rim and knock down a mid-range jumper. Monty Williams started drawing up plays specifically for him to come off curls to get jumpers around the elbow, and they worked well. A forgotten bench player in January, by March Morrow was perhaps the Pelicans' third-best scorer after Davis and Evans. This might have been the moment when we all knew that the Anthony Morrow Experience was here to stay:
The play was clearly drawn up for a Davis isolation, but the ball fell into Morrow's hands. Instead of panicking, he coolly penetrates to the free throw line, creates a little bit of space, and drains a tough jumper to send the game into overtime for an eventual Pelicans win.
Later in March, Morrow scored 27 points in a surprising win over the Clippers, his highest scoring total of the season. In the win, he flashed his entire offensive arsenal. When Chris Paul guarded him, he backed him down in the post and scored over him. When guarded by Matt Barnes, he blew by him to get to the basket. And when open in transition, he knocked down easy threes.
As the season wound down and the Pelicans began to resemble a better-dressed MASH unit, Morrow really picked up his scoring. Even though he only started two games out of the last ten, he played 30 minutes per game and averaged 15 points. This stretch was when it became clear to everybody watching that Morrow was in line for a big payday come July. And good for him - he was one of the lone bright spots down the stretch for a beleaguered Pelicans team.