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2017 NBA Draft Prospect Preview: Monte Morris is as steady as they come at point guard

The New Orleans Pelicans could be in need of a lot of help at point guard. Picking Morris in the second round would alleviate some concern.

Nevada v Iowa State Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

If rumors are to be believed, Jrue Holiday could well be on his way out of New Orleans.

Just this week Holiday’s been linked to the Dallas Mavericks and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Before that, it was the Philadelphia 76ers and the New York Knicks that had shown interest. Compound that with his brother Justin’s stated desire to play with Jrue, and it’s looking more and more likely Jrue Holiday won’t be in a Pelicans uniform next season.

Point guard is an area of concern for the Pelicans this offseason and Holiday’s decision will further accentuate their summer plans. New Orleans could either be in need of a new starting point guard or adding depth at the primary ball handler position. Especially for the second unit, New Orleans is in need of someone to initiate offense with Tim Frazier taking a step back. Selecting Iowa State’s Monte’ Morris in the second round could fill that void.

The most important thing a point guard can do is get teammates involved while not turn the ball over and Morris is literally the best to ever do that in the college game. In his four years at Iowa State, he posted a 4.65:1 assist to turnover ratio. That’s the best figure in NCAA history, among all three levels I might add!

In 140 games, Morris turned the ball over 165 times which amounts to an average of 1.1 a game. In that same time, he handed out 768 assists, an Iowa State school record, for about 5.5 a game.

Morris has decent height for a point guard, measuring 6’2” at the NBA Combine, but is on the slight side at 175 pounds and leaves a little to be desired in terms of a 6’-4’’ wingspan. While not physically imposing, Morris makes up for it with that aforementioned good decision making and high basketball IQ.

Morris ended his final season in Ames averaging 16 points, six assists and four rebounds. He’s a consensus second round pick for Thursday’s draft, but the question remains: how high will he be drafted? CBS has Morris ranked 41st overall, DraftExpress at 52 and The Ringer has him at 60.

If Morris is indeed New Orleans’ man at No. 40, let’s take a closer look at what type of player he is.

Strengths: Classic pass-first point guard; excellent ball handler and decision maker; active defender; NBA ready

Watch how Morris leads the fast break and the choices he makes. The 1:42 mark is one of my favorites: he’s got a three-on-two and throws a no-look pass to the trailing player. He’s good about getting the ball across, too. Off a miss, Morris throws a nice cross court pass to a teammate that was leaking out. We know that Alvin Gentry wants to run and creating early offense like that would make him grin.

Morris is quite adept at running pick and rolls, and assuming he’ll be teamed with Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, that’s an imperative skill to possess in the NBA. Around the 2:23 mark, notice Morris gets his pick and squeezes in a bounce pass between two defenders.

He’s also not afraid to drive into the lane, but he’s savvy enough to keep his head up and kick out to shooters on the three point line. Morris plays with pretty good tempo, looking to initiate offense from the get-go and it’s easy to imagine him kicking the ball out to the awaiting arms of Jordan Crawford or E’Twaun Moore. Check him out at the 3:17 mark, that’s Kansas’ Josh Jackson he was able to get by.

Morris is not only Iowa State’s record holder in assists, he is also tops in the steals category. As mentioned, his stature is a bit lean for the NBA point guard position, but his hands are always active as evidenced by the creation of all the havoc in his four years at Iowa State.

Weaknesses: Ability to finish; struggles to create his own shot; questionable range; can be bullied defensively

Because of his slight frame and iffy athleticism for the next level, Morris will have a hard time finishing at the rim. Case in point, look at him at the 1:39 mark. He’s deadset on attacking the rim, but when he got into the teeth of the defense he’s like Ron Burgundy when he jumped into the bear cave. If you listen close enough you can almost hear him say, “I immediately regret this decision.”

Morris has a repertoire of floaters at his disposal, but once he’s in the league against bigger, longer athletes, those shots may not drop as often as they did in college. Morris isn’t much of a leaper either — no one will expect him to go to the lane and yam it on somebody. And remember how we complain Holiday doesn’t draw enough fouls? Enter Monte’ Morris who attempted 2.6 free throws a game in his four years at Iowa State.

Morris won’t beat anyone in an iso situation either. At least not consistently and it probably won’t because he blew right past the defender. Look at the 3:40 mark: he can’t shake the guy checking him. Give him credit, Morris is a creative player but we know “creative” is code for “mediocre athlete.” Scouts love De’Aaron Fox because the dude has the speed to make him a complete blur on the court. Morris is miles from being that guy, he’ll have to rely on basketball IQ.

Defensively, Morris is a try hard guy and he’ll have to maintain that intensity because at his stature he can be had at the next level. Once bumped, Morris gives up ground and by then it’s too late for him to recover; he isn’t quick enough to make up for someone getting by him laterally.

Despite the negatives, Monte’ Morris is a player that I like for New Orleans at the 40th overall selection. He may not be starter material, but Morris looks like a guy that could hang around the league for a while because he’s facilitator who doesn’t turn the ball over and makes effort plays defensively. With Jrue Holiday’s uncertain future lingering, New Orleans would be smart to take a chance on a point guard like Morris.