One word: instincts.
College basketball hasnt seen a player with Adam Morrisons natural feel for the game in a very long time. Obviously Morrison knows how to score the basketball, but his instincts make him much, much more than just that. Mentally, he is just a step ahead of everybody else on the floor.
The first thing that you notice about Morrison is his ability to score. He understands how to create his own shot better than anybody we've seen at the college level in years. Not only does utilize contact and spacing better than any player in the country, he has also mastered the art of the contested jumpshot. If he is able to get a step going toward the basket, the defense might as well give up. He is going to get a shot off, and whether or not it goes in has little to do with a hand in his face.
Morrison nails Nowitzki-style turnaround fadeaways with ease, and is very comfortable throwing up one-handed floaters on the move from 10-15 feet. These types of shots (that the average player would get benched for even attempting) are what Morrison has built his legend on, and are the main reason for the controversial Larry Bird comparisons.
Already mentioned was the fact that if Adam Morrison gets a step on his man, he is literally unguardable. Morrisons improved outside jumper is making it even harder for teams to keep him from attacking off the dribble. Where defenses could almost sag off him a season ago (31% from beyond the arc as a Sophomore), Morrison has begun to hit the 3-pointer at a frightening clip in 2006. He recently made 8-13 3-pointers in a 44-point explosion against Loyola Marymount, and is hitting nearly 45% of his long-distance attempts on the season. This percentage is even more impressive considering how much attention Morrison gets, and how often his 3-point attempts are contested, end of the shot clock types of looks.
Morrisons shot is a thing of beauty. He uses multiple release points, and is able to get it off in an almost limitless number of ways. When you realize the technical mastery behind Morrison's form, it makes a bit more sense when those freakishly difficult fadeaways start dropping. The rim is definitely Morrisons friend, as his touch seems to almost force the ball through the basket after an initial bounce.
Of course, Morrison will still have an off shooting night from time to time. It is in those moments that one gains another level of appreciation for his game.
Despite a herky-jerky running style and an almost frail appearance at first glance, Morrison will aggressively attack the basket when his shot stops falling. Whether it is slashing into the lane before defenses can react, posting up smaller defenders for midrange hook shots, relentlessly running the floor or simply scrapping for offensive rebounds, Adam Morrison always gets his 25.
Of course, it all comes back to instincts. Morrison has two and often three defenders thrown at him for entire games, and he still manages to find a way to score. Not only does he have all these offensive tools, but Morrison exhibits a nearly machine-like ability to recognize defenses and take advantage of whatever he is being given. Take away his dribble drive, and he will spot up. Play him tight, and he will take the ball to the basket all night. Put a big guy on him, and he will get the step. Defend him with a smaller guard, and he will go to work in the post.
Sticking with the instincts theme, Morrison has also nearly mastered his ability to utilize screens. Many see Reggie Miller or Rip Hamilton in the way that he never stops attacking off the ball, and always manages to exploit the pick to the fullest. Morrison consistently makes perfectly timed backdoor cuts and will pick up a freebie around the rim the instant a defense loses a bit of focus.
Adam Morrison ability to read and exploit defenses in the blink of an eye, combined with his formidable shot creating tools allows him to be one of the most feared clutch scorers in the country. Morrison has earned his reputation as a guy that always hits the big shot (see games against Michigan State, Oklahoma State, Stanford), and relishes the pressure that comes with that go-to role. We arent just talking buzzer beaters, either. Morrison hits momentum shots, ending a run by the opposition or giving his team a boost with a 3-pointer right before halftime.
Morrisons clutch plays dont always show up in the scoring column, either. While he averages less than 2 assists per game, he finds his teammates at crucial moments on a regular basis. Sometimes it is just a steal or a rebound, but Morrison can almost always will Gonzaga to victory.
That will to win is just one more thing that sets Morrison apart, and adds to his national appeal. While he sometimes takes his scrappy, fiery demeanor a bit too far, Morrison is always the most competitive player on the court. He will do anything to win, and his emotional on-court displays electrify both his team and the crowd. Not only is he uniquely talented, but his intensity and flair make him the type of unique personality that will always draw people in.
1/20/05 - Jonathan Watters
Perhaps the best pure scorer at the NCAA level. Morrison Lights it up in a variety of ways, whether it be on an outside jumper, taking his man off the dribble, or fading away from fifteen. Despite his awkward looks, is quick enough to get a step on most NCAA defenders. Once he's by his man, it's as good as two points. Uses his length to take the ball all the way to the basket, finishing with a dunk or finger roll, but is more prone to pull up for a circus-style, fading jumper. Probably more comfortable shooting the ball falling away with a man in his face than he is with his set shot. Furthermore, the very Larry Bird-esque way he shoots from above his head makes it almost impossible to block his shot. As well as he creates for himself, he also knows how to create for others. Handles the ball well for his size, and will find his teammates with regularity when teams try to double him off the drive. Despite having the ball in his hands a lot, almost never commits a turnover. When he gets going, he wins games by himself. Morrison is a firey competitor, and seems to relish getting in mouthy, one-on-one challenges on the floor.
While Morrisons dominance at the college level cant be questioned, many still doubt how his game will translate to the next level. Morrison has a certain amount of deceptive quickness to his game, but is he a good enough athlete to be a star in the NBA?
With how hard Morrison has to work to get shots at the college level, can he create offense against the Ron Artests and Bruce Bowens of the NBA? While the caliber of defender guarding Morrison has made little difference during his time at Gonzaga, it remains to be seen whether he has the footspeed or overall athleticism to succeed as an all-around scorer at the next level.
The other hole in Adam Morrisons game can be easily observed on the defensive end. Morrison clearly reserves most of his energy for his scoring expoits, and tends to coast on defense most of the time. Gonzaga will often switch into zone defenses so teams cant exploit him on that end.
While Morrison has solid defensive instincts when he is focused, it is generally perceived that the lack of footspeed will really hurt in one-on-one situations on the defensive end. Morrison may very well be able to create his own shot in the NBA, but it is hard to see him being able to stay in front of the freak athletes occupying the wing position in the NBA. It is likely that whichever team ends up drafting Morrison will have to come up with a defensive gameplan that covers for Morrisons shortcomings on that end.
As was mentioned in the strengths section, sometimes Morrison takes that fiery persona a bit too far. As the season has worn on, he has gotten much more daring in his working of the officials, and has enraged several opponents with bouts of what some would call intensity or competitiveness, but others would call showboating. This is nitpicking, but there is definitely a noticeable trend as Morrison has gone from everybodys favorite underdog to national superstar.
The only other issue to discuss here is Morrisons diabetes. It is hard to see the condition being a deciding factor on whether a team drafts him or not, as he has proven that he can continue to play at a high level with very little rest in the most grueling of situations. Nonetheless, you can bet that NBA teams will do their homework on what the implications of the disease could be.
1/20/06 - Jonathan Watters
Looks incredibly slow, frail, at first glance. Eventually it becomes obvoius that he's a lot more athletic than he looks, but quickness is going to be an issue in the NBA. A bit of Mike Dunleavey in him in this regard. This also hurts him at the defensive end, where he is at a severe disadvantage in terms of footspeed. Where his understanding of how to put the ball in the basket is almost surreal, Morrison has a long way to go in terms of understanding how to play defense. It's not a lack of effort, but Morrison still hasn't figured out how to be physical and disruptive on the perimeter. While his shooting stroke is as pure as you can get, he's shooting under 30% from behind the arc. However, he differs from most shooting specialists in that he doesn't rely much on the three.
Adam Morrison plays in the WCC, certainly a Mid-Major caliber conference. While he certainly doesnt face the top competition in January or February, Gonzaga always plays a tough non-conference schedule, and Morrisons star always shines its brightest against the toughest teams.
Morrison surprised many by averaging over 11 points per game as a freshman, on a loaded, upperclassmen-laden Gonzaga squad.
He really broke out as a sophomore, taking over the role of go-to scorer very early in the season. He scored 26 in consecutive against Illinois and Washington, and put up 24 in a nationally televised game against then-highly regarded Georgia Tech. Morrison gave everybody a preview of what was to come in March of 2005, averaging nearly 27 ppg in four games during the WCC and NCAA Tournaments. On the season, Morrison averaged 19.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, and 2.8 apg. He shot 49.8% from the floor, 75.8 % from the line, and 31.1% from beyond the arc.
Morrison became a national sensation nearly overnight after leading Gonzaga to a thrilling 3-OT victory over Michigan State in the 2nd round of the 2005 Maui Classic. Gonzaga needed every single one of his 43 points to get the win, though Morrison has been doing his best to top that performance ever since. Whether it was his second 43-point outing of the year in a loss at Washington, his banked-in buzzer beating 3-pointer against Oklahoma State, the way he took over down the stretch against Stanford, or his 37-point second half outburst against Loyola Marymount, Morrison has an entire nation of college basketball fans wondering what he will manage to do next.
On the season (as of February 24), Morrison is averaging 29.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.6 apg, and 1.1 spg. He is shooting 51.7% from the floor, 77.9% from the line, and 44.9% from beyond the arc.
One way that Morrison can silence the critics about the competition level he faces is to lead Gonzaga on a deep NCAA Tournament run. The Zags have received high seeds the last two seasons, and have gone home early both years. It appears that Mark Fews team is in line for a top 3 seeding once again.
Adam Morrison is undoubtedly a top 5 pick, and could go as high as number one depending on which team is selecting there. Morrison isnt a lock to be a star, but will be a very successful NBA player in the right system. There is little up in the air when it comes to Morrisons skill level and feel for the game, but there are questions about his physical abilities on the next level. Does he have the footspeed and overall athleticism to create his own shot in the NBA? To put up a fight on defense? Opinions on Morrison probably vary greatly depending on which person is making the decisions, so his final draft position will probably be locked in only when the draft order is. If the GM with the top selection needs a wing and believes Adam Morrison can be a go-to scorer, it is hard to imagine him being passed on.
1/20/04 - Jonathan Watters
I am higher on Adam Morrison than most, but the consensus is that this guy is a future first round pick. Morrison needs to shore up his defense and continue to improve his athletic ability to succeed in the NBA. Many see him as having a Dunleavey type game in the NBA, but Dunleavey never created his shot they way that Morrison does. A potential lottery pick within the next year or two...
Morrison was a Gonzaga ballboy growing up, and much has been made of the fact that the Zags was the only team to offer him a scholarship. While this may be true, it should be mentioned that Morrison was a late bloomer, and committed to the Zags in the spring of his junior year. By the time Morrison had finished his high school career he was nearly cracking national Top 100 lists, and certainly would have garnered other offers had he not made the early verbal. Keep in mind that Morrison was only 65 at the time.
Morrison is currently averaging 29.3 ppg. If he ends up topping the 30 ppg barrier, he would be the first player to accomplish the feat since 1997. The last time a nationally known player averaged 30 ppg was in 1994, when Glenn Robinson did it for Gene Keady and Purdue.