A flirtation with Ryan Anderson, and a serious push for Al Horford this summer, would’ve signaled a significant new direction for the Wizards with Markieff Morris, who likely would've shifted to a sixth-man role.
But Horford chose a max offer from the Boston Celtics instead and the Wizards never put anything on the table for Anderson to consider despite letting their interest be known early in free agency. Morris, who is on a contract that pays him an average of $8 million per year through 2019, is the starting power forward.
Combining the 6-10 forward with Marcin Gortat worked when the Wizards acquired Morris at the trade deadline. With him in the starting lineup instead of the undersized Jared Dudley, the Wizards went from being at the bottom of the NBA in rebounding (30th) to at the top (sixth). They were five games over .500 (18-13) instead of five games under (23-28) with Morris and went from 21st in points allowed per game (105.1) to fifth (101.2).
“I’m not a high rebound guy with numbers. Me and Gortat talked. I’ll let him have the rebounds,” said Morris, who averaged a modest 12.4 points and 5.9 rebounds with the Wizards. “I do a great job of blocking out. I can block out any size guy.”
Actual rebounding numbers aren’t always a good indicator of how a player impacts rebounding. Nene didn’t have the best stats in this area either, but he routinely sealed multiple opponents simultaneously to clear the path of Gortat to get the boards. Some players, think Carlos Boozer, rebound much harder when it’s for an offensive rebound but not as hard on the defensive glass. Why? Offensive rebounds translate directly into points and the effort isn’t always the same. Like steals and blocks can be deceptive stats because the entire defense can be compromised by a player who gambles repeatedly to pad his own numbers, the same holds true for rebounding. It's why raw data for the sake of data doesn't necessarily prove anything.
Morris sees himself in the same light, and that has to please Gortat who has emphasized to new coach Scott Brooks that he wants more touches. More rebounds for a 6-11 big who averaged 13.5 points and 9.9 last season would push him to new heights.
“Once that ball goes up, I’ll put my body on him you go get it,” Morris said of Gortat, who came to Washington in a trade with the Suns in 2013. “Simple as that. I don’t need 20, 30 rebounds. He can have them. It was like that in Phoenix, too. He’s used to it.”