I remember when Adam Morrison was a freshman at Gonzaga Sports Illustrated wrote an article about him in its College Basketball section that compared him to Larry Bird. Last night, with his unconditional release by the lowly Washington Wizards, his career seems over.
What happened? Morrison had decent college numbers. Not great college numbers, but decent. His professional numbers should not have been so terrible. What happened?
With the help of HoopData, the answer is easy. Morrison was a scorer who could not effectively score at the professional level from the necessary areas that lead to efficient production. Let me explain.
A comparison of Morrison’s college field goal percentage (52%) to his NBA fg percentage makes it appear as though Morrison lost his shooting touch. Not so. He was never a great shooter, as evidenced by his below average free throw percentage. But he wasn’t a terrible field goal shooter in the professional ranks, he simply took difficult shots.
According to Hardwood Paroxysm, the average NBA small forward takes around 30% of his shot attempts at the rim. According to HoopData, Adam Morrison began his NBA career attempting only 12% of his shots at the rim, and those numbers declined rapidly after his injury suffered as an NBA sophomore. In his third season, Morrison took a mere 8% of his attempts at the rim. Steering clear of the paint had the double negative effect of completely diminishing Morrison’s free throw attempts per field goal attempts.
One simply cannot be a productive NBA scorer without (a) easy baskets; (b) a high amount of free throws; and/or (c) a preternatural jump shot. Morrison had none of those things.
And since he did not rebound and could not defense my arthritic grandma, Morrison quickly sank to the NBA’s abyss. Now even one of the worst teams in the NBA has no use for him.
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But why couldn’t Morrison find opportunities at the rim or in the paint? I have a theory.
In order to get decent opportunities in the NBA paint, one must be able to create space for oneself. This does not necessarily require athleticism, though it helps. I believe a player can create space four different ways.
(1) A player can create space vertically, as leapers like David Thompson did or as very long players like Kevin Durant do.
(2) A player can create space horizontally, by separating himself from his defender off the dribble, as quick and fast players like Rajon Rondo do (but horizontal separation requires attribute (4).
(3) A player can create space geographically, by separating himself through strength, as Shaq did, and as Gerald Wallace and countless others have done;
(4) or, a player can create space through cleverness, as Steve Nash does. Nash is not a long or fast or strong player, but he realized early in his career that a basketball released at strange angles is difficult to block. This is also how Larry Bird was able to “create his own shot”. (remember how Tommy Heinsohn would annoyingly refer to Bird as “the master of the half inch”?).
Looking at this season’s crop of rookies and their woeful shooting percentages, it seems to me that most NBA players have to either possess one of the top three attributes, or they have to learn the fourth.
Adam Morrison never did. And now he is done.