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Film study: Wizards' stretch 4 headaches solved with Markieff Morris

Film study: Wizards' stretch 4 headaches solved with Markieff Morris

It's difficult to toot anyone's horn when the record is 3-8, but the presence of Markieff Morris as the Wizards' starting power forward is paying dividends above and beyond his $8 million a year average salary. In Thursday's victory over the New York Knicks, he took away Kristaps Porzingis similar to how he made it incredibly difficult for Paul Millsap and Serge Ibaka.

These names are all relevant because matchup-wise, those players have given the Wizards fits because of their inability in recent years -- before Morris was acquired in a trade in February for a mid-first-round pick in a shallow 2016 draft pool -- to defend stretch fours. Porzingis, Millsap and Ibaka were too quick for the likes of Kris Humphries, Nene, a traditional back-to-the-basket power forward, and too big for Jared Dudley who was a career small forward unfairly tasked with getting posted up by more athletic bigs.

This is no longer an issue and there's ample evidence to show it with Morris. He only had eight points on 4-for-11 shooting in a 119-112 over New York to go with eight rebounds. But it also shows why reading boxscores to determine effectiveness, or plus-minus ratings, is hardly the most accurate gauge. With Morris on the floor, the Wizards were plus-5, the lowest of any starter.

Sometimes his rebounding numbers will be lower because he's out on the arc defending stretch shooters like Porzingis, taking Morris out of prime defensive rebounding position. 

After scoring 35 points the previous night, Porzingis only had eight points through three quarters in Washington as his team trailed by 22. The focus here will be on the first half when Morris only had two points, and what role he played in helping them get out to a double-digit lead:

First quarter

-- 10:22-10:12: Porzingis slides along the baseline to the weakside for an isolation post up just outside the paint, the same kind of play the Knicks run for Carmelo Anthony and the Chicago Bulls for Dwyane Wade. Morris is on top of him with resistance immediately, not allowing Porzingis deeper position. Porzingis starts his move out farther from the rim than when he started as Morris stays square, doesn't bail him out with a cheap reach-in and doesn't allow him to get to his right shoulder to the middle of the paint. Forced to run baseline for a lower percentage look, Porzingis rises and lofts an airball for a shot clock violation and Morris still contests without fouling. This is picture perfect position defense that's every bit as good as a blocked shot. In fact, it's even better because you're guaranteed possession.

-- 6:22-6:09: Long before Anthony's entry pass to Porzingis in this isolation, Morris fights him out of his position pre-catch. Porzingis does not catch this one in the mid-post area with his momentum going into the paint. He catches 1-2 feet beyond that and is angled towards the baseline. When he tries to go into Morris with his right shoulder, he doesn't have the leverage and is quickly stripped by Morris who anticipates his dribble. It leads to a layup for Bradley Beal. 

-- 5:16-5:07: This has nothing to do with Porzingis. Courtney Lee heaves a three-pointer that misses. The only player for the Knicks near the ball is Willy Hernangomez, but Morris is in a switch and finds his man's body and keeps him from having a shot at the board. Morris doesn't even go for the rebound himself but he makes sure his teammate gets it cleanly. This is why rebounding isn't necessarily about your personal numbers but helping your team rebound better with you on the floor. That's the number that matters most. 

Second quarter

-- 1:57-1:41: To get Porzingis some room, the Knicks use sceen-roll with Derrick Rose. Porzingis, however, slips to the basket which forces a rotation. Jason Smith comes over to seal him from the rim as Morris recovers. Notice Morris' right arm extended to make Rose have to go over the top with the pass and drop it in. Morris jumps with his hands straight up. That forces the pass to arrive a half-second later than if he would've just given up on the play completely. Morris switches with Smith on Porzingis and then stunts towards him to create a mishandle as Porzingis has to retreat to get under control. Morris goes to find the open man after his stunt to get in position for a possible rebound. But Smith doesn't give the same resistance to Porzingis as Morris. Why? If Smith gets too close and physical with Porzingis, he'll get beaten off the dribble. Porzingis gets the separation and a clean look for the made shot. With Morris, that's a more difficult finish because he'd get neither.

-- 0:31-0:24: This is Morris creating a shot that could not be finished by any recent power forward on the roster. Porzingis is a very athletic and long big, but Morris is still quicker. He attacks the close out and when Morris first touches the paint with his foot the corner has been turned on Porzingis. Usually his wingspan is enough to help him recover to alter the shot.

And for extra emphasis, these are some looks on Morris' defense from earlier in the season in which he proved to be a differnce-maker as a stretch four defensively (in the paint and on the perimeter):

A year ago, Kyle Korver gets a cleaner look to send this game into overtime from three. But Morris is big, long and mobile enough to alter the shot. Imagine Dudley, Humphries or Nene trying to do this. Instead, the Wizards pulled out their first win  95-92 vs. Atlanta:

Ibaka roasted the Wizards last season, before Morris' arrival. This is an attempted post-up that turns into a contested, low-percentage chuck at the basket because Morris again is strong enough to fight him off his preferred spot and stay balanced and in position with his feet to contest. Ibaka set a career-high for made threes against the Wizards when they put a true big like Nene or Humphries on him. If it were Dudley, this is a clean and easy post-up look:

The versatility Morris has offensively is on display in this clip vs. the Magic. Name a player at the four spot pre-Morris who could do this on the offensive side of the ball? He doesn't make the basket here but he blows by Jeff Green on the close out to draw the foul for two free throws:

From the earlier look at Ibaka, this is his teammate Nikola Vucevic, who is bigger and stronger and getting the ball in a similar position. He's attempting a duck-in to the lane but Morris keeps him from turning to his preferred shoulder. The result is the same missed shot as Ibaka with a contest at the point of release:

Back to the offensive side, put an undersized four on Morris to defend him away from the rim like Green, he can still do this off the dribble and get to the rim for the finish. He's too big for smallish fours and has a lot of their finesse game to match to create separation/in-traffic finishes like this:

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Kevin Durant creating a documentary on why so many NBA players come from Prince George's County

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Kevin Durant creating a documentary on why so many NBA players come from Prince George's County

Still recovering from a long rehab process after rupturing his Achilles in the NBA Finals last year, the way Kevin Durant is spending his time may spark the interest of basketball fans all around the DMV area. 

The Sports Business Journal reported Durant is creating a documentary focusing on the prominence of basketball stars raised in Prince George's County and is "putting the finishing touches" on the project. 

Durant's Thirty Five Ventures has the documentary, called "In the Water", listed as still in development on its website. With players like Durant, University of Maryland legend Len Bias, and Pacers all-star guard Victor Oladipo all coming from the same place, this will surely be a must-watch. 

Markelle Fultz, Jeff Green, Quinn Cook, and Ty Lawson are also some of the better known local products to make it in the NBA. The documentary will air on Showtime. 

"This is a project that really looks at the roots of why that is societally and culturally," Showtime Sports President Stephen Espinoza told Sports Business Journal. 

Some of Thirty Five Ventures' other projects include ESPN+'s "The Boardroom" starring Durant and Jay Williams, Still KD, and more. Co-founded with manager Rich Kleiman, the company also has a diverse portfolio that includes investments into companies like food delivery service Postmates and the sports network Overtime. 

Although Durant has repeatedly said he won't be playing for his hometown Wizards during the past few free agency periods, he has done quite a bit to shine some light on the local community's success. 

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Looking back at the top moments in Wizards All-Star Weekend history

Looking back at the top moments in Wizards All-Star Weekend history

The Wizards sent three representatives to 2020 NBA All-Star Chicago in Rui Hachimura, Moritz Wagner and Davis Bertans. The three young big men will join a long list of D.C. greats that have performed exceptionally well during All-Star Weekend history.

John Wall wins the 2014 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest

John Wall was the last All-Star to win the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. In 2014, Wall competed in a revamped format of the Dunk Contest with a freestyle round followed by a battle round. Wall was voted Dunker of the Night.

Javale McGee gets snubbed in the 2011 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest

McGee came in second place in the 2011 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, losing the fan vote to then-Clippers star Blake Griffin. McGee 

Tim Legler wins 1996 Three-Point Contest

Legler is the only Wizard/Bullet to win the Three-Point Shootout. Legler defeated Orlando Magic guard Dennis Scott in the final round of the shootout back in 1996. Legler announced that he almost missed the contest due to the birth of his daughter. After consulting with his wife, she insisted he participate, and they induced labor a week before All-Star Weekend. He dedicated the contest to his newborn and put forward the winning prize money toward her college fund.

Dave Bing named 1976 All-Star Game MVP

Bullets star Dave Bing won MVP in the final All-Star Game of his career. Bing is the only Wizard/Bullet in the franchise's history to be named All-Star Game MVP. He shot 7-of-11 from the floor and scored 16 points.

John Wall named MVP of 2011 Rising Stars Challenge

Wall brought home the hardware during his first Rising Stars Challenge, scoring 12 points and dishing out 22 assists to lead the rookies past a star-studded sophomore squad that included Stephen Curry and James Harden. 

Gilbert Arenas reaches the 2007 Three-Point Contest finals

Arenas competed in the Three-Point Contest in 2006 and 2007 as a member of the Wizards. He came in second place in his first go-round, falling to Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki, and lost to Heat sharpshooter Jason Kapono in 2007.

Bradley Beal reaches the 2014 Three-Point Contest finals

Beal reached the final round of the shootout in 2014 but narrowly lost to Spurs guard Marco Belinelli, 24-18.

Davis Bertans reaches the 2020 Three-Point Contest finals

The Latvian Laser held his own in his first-ever Three-Point Contest. Bertans swept his money ball rack and ended up making seven in a row to earn himself a spot in the final round where he eventually lost to Kings' sharpshooter Buddy Hield.

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