This imminent 2013-14 Philadelphia 76ers season is something that Doug Collins-hating and Sam Hinkie-worshipping fans are anxiously awaiting. Yet for season ticket holders and faithful who simply just want their professional basketball team to win games, this year is nothing but scary. Terrifying. UNNERVING.
Enter this horror story’s evil villain, Darius Morris. He even wears a mask.
Despite the contrasting viewpoints, everyone who is even mildly interested in the Sixers can agree on one thing: it certainly will be entertaining to watch this motley crew of NBA misfit rejects and potential-ladens develop under Brett Brown and his staff.
One former Los Angeles Laker and Michigan Wolverine may stand in the way of that universal pleasure.
When Hinkie signed Darius Morris to a partially guaranteed contract back in early September, I cringed. At least Chris Duhon had been a decent starting point guard in the NBA. He averaged 11.1 points and 7.2 assists per game for the Knicks in 2008-2009. He could, at a minimum, share some knowledge of how to run a mediocre team in the League.
Instead Morris, who started 17 games for the injury-riddled Lake Show last season, is more of a stopgap—an average and inexpensive backup point guard who could even take over the starting reigns of a lottery-bound team if Michael Carter-Williams proved to be a complete disaster. I enjoyed the addition of Tony Wroten. In fact, I would have been completely content if Hinkie and Brown simply encouraged MCW and T-Wrote to improve by battling each other everyday at PCOM.
Then, during the team’s seven preseason games, Morris proved my worst fear: he will steal minutes from the Sixers young developing guards this year, if given a roster spot. Morris played 19.0 minutes per night in all but one of the 76ers’ preseason contests this month. Though in that time, the California native played well, scoring 6.0 points and dishing 2.7 assists per game while shooting 36.4 percent from three-point land.
But wouldn’t you rather those 19 minutes go to a younger player (or players) with more upside? Granted, Morris is just 22 years old, but it feels like he’s 29 and playing on his sixth team in nine seasons. The truth is, his physical tools and limited NBA skill set ultimately have him pegged either at or just below his professional basketball ceiling. Morris has the talent of the prototypical player that formerly helped the Sixers linger in mediocrity. He’s a younger version of Royal Ivey.
Meanwhile, it’s been widely speculated and assumed that Vander Blue and Khalif Wyatt were competing for the team’s final roster spot over the past several weeks. The two undrafted free agent guards combined to average 10.5 points and 2.0 assists in 26.8 minutes per game. Blue drilled 42.9 percent of his attempts from deep while Wyatt hit from outside at 30.0 percent. And now, it seems possible both of the Team WHOP members could be sent to Newark.
I’d rather see the two rooks split Morris’ timeshare this winter. Maybe Brown would be able to find a hidden gem for his bench for years to come. Even further, Morris’ capability to log time at the point and at shooting guard will likely steal minutes away from both MCW and Wroten as well.
The Sixers roster is basically set at 11 bodies right now, including the injured Nerlens Noel, Kwame Brown, Jason Richardson and Arnett Moultrie. I’d imagine Morris and Daniel Orton will be given three of those remaining four openings, with the 14th spot likely going to Royce White.
If that scenario comes into fruition, then only one of Vander Blue, Khalif Wyatt, Hollis Thompson, Rodney Williams, Gani Lawal and Mac Koshwal will make the opening night roster.
That would be a damn shame, and I blame Darius Morris.