For the second year in a row, Monte Morris has earned his
position as a starting point guard in the NBA. However, his
surroundings look a little different.
After Morris logged a successful campaign as a full-time starter
with the Denver Nuggets, the organization traded the 27-year-old
this past summer to the Washington Wizards. It’s the first time
he’s experienced being dealt in this league, but he’s taking it in
“We got good vibes, good energy right now. It's still a new
system for me, new teammates, so every day it's something new and
getting better,” Morris told Basketball News at the team’s pregame
shootaround in Cleveland on Sunday.
Luckily for him, there are some friends of his to ease the
change. For one, Wes Unseld Jr. — who worked with Morris in Denver
for the first four years of his career as an assistant to Michael
Malone — is the head coach in D.C.
“I would assume it's quite challenging,” Unseld explained. “When
you kinda come up in one system and you go from G League to
rotation [player] to starter, you've been with that team for quite
some time, [and] to make that adjustment it's gonna take a bit of
time. New teammates, new system — some of it's very similar, but
certainly, different components.”
To make matters even more comfortable, well-respected veteran
swingman Will Barton was also involved in the move, which sent
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith to the Nuggets.
“That's my guy,” Morris said. “I told 'em, I've been knowing 'em
in Denver, so he's been my teammate on every team I've been on in
the league. So the transition's definitely easy 'cause he was one
of my vets when I was a rookie, and me and him [are] close, so it's
good to have that guy, a familiar face here with you to get through
Sometimes when players are sent away in trades, their roles can
change at the drop of the hat. That’s not the case here. In his
lone season as the lead floor general in Denver, Morris averaged
12.6 points and 4.4 assists over 75 contests. He turned it up in
the postseason even more with 14.0 points and 5.3 dimes on average
while shooting a healthy 42.3% from distance.
Boasting 48 total games of playoff experience and an impressive
run as a top guard in Denver, Morris became a sought-after talent
for Washington's backcourt.
“Grind,” Morris said of what it took to get to this point as a
starter. “I mean, just grinded every day and just turning it into
work. Good or bad days, just trying to string 'em together and just
learn as much as I can. Also, just opportunity, getting a chance to
showcase and show what I could do, so I was able and fortunate to
get a starting job here.”
Now the elder statesman, Bradley Beal has been holding down
Washington’s guard room for a decade. Kristaps Porzingis has been a
Wizard for just 20 games, but is building chemistry and looking
sharp out of the gate on both ends. Referring to them as “two
high-IQ guys,” Morris feels he’s been establishing a good rapport
“I mean, it's been real easy,” Morris said. “They can score a
ball at a real high clip, so I'll get 'em in spots and stuff and
get 'em good looks."
While numbers are quite noisy in small sample sizes this early,
it’s worth noting that the trio has a Net Rating of plus-19.3 together in
72 minutes, and while Morris is off the floor, the Beal-KP
combo is a NET minus-17.3 (per PBP Stats).
“He’s just trying to figure out what works best for Brad, what
works best for KP, learning the offense inside and out so he can
kinda quarterback us,” Unseld added.
Morris showed plenty of love to Delon Wright, too — another
fresh face with the Wizards who offers a different feel at the
“Delon, it's his eighth year in the league this year. I'm going
on Year 6, so I think it's good to bring in two point guards who
kinda play (an) older-school game, get guys involved,” Morris said.
“Delon’s a little longer than me, so he comes in and changes up the
game in a different way and I impact [the game] in a different way
With each passing night, Morris is growing more comfortable.
Despite a losing Wizards effort in an overtime battle with the
Cavaliers, Washington battled throughout the way, and he scored 13
points to go with 6 assists and a team-high plus-6 in the box
“I think he's doing a great job,” Unseld said. “There's no way
to fast-track that — the game reps, practice, as many minutes and
reps that they can get together I think helps. But for where we are
right now, I think he's done a terrific job leading in from the
preseason to a short [three-game] window."
If this were a younger version of himself, Morris would’ve had a
harsher reaction to Sunday’s result. Now a veteran in his own
right, he’s taking a more positive, forward-looking approach.
“I just think, like, [I'm] not trying to dwell on games too
much,” Morris said Sunday morning. “Just knowing at midnight,
you've got another top guard or somebody you're going against. I
used to dwell on games so heavy. I would just, like — if I had a
bad game, I would let it sit on me. I still think about 'em if I do
have a bad game, but I just know we've got 80 more and I've just
gotta be the best version of me the next day. I think that's the
biggest thing I've done in my career, is just maturing on that
“It's hard [to take it day-by-day], so I just try to stay [as]
even-keeled as possible. We're in the best league, got the best job
in the world, wake up and play basketball. So I can't get too high
or get too low. It's gonna be sunny days, it's gonna be beautiful
days, it's gonna be days where it ain't going my way, that night
where I'm like 1-for-13 or some sh** like that, and didn't impact
the game how I impacted it [usually]. But like I said, God’s got a
plan for me. He always has. Just try to live and die by that."