Explaining Marcus Morris’s three-point shooting surge

Marcus Morris has been great from long range during the Detroit Pistons’ recent 7 game stretch, in large part due to the types of shots that he’s taking.

During the Detroit Pistons‘ recent 5-2 stretch, Marcus Morris has looked like the 2015-16 version that endeared him to Pistons fans. Like most of his teammates, Morris has seen an offensive surge in the past seven games. In Morris’s case, the surge is largely a product of much improved three point shooting.

In 2015-16, Morris shot 36.2 percent on three-point field goal attempts, a number that’s very close to his career average. Through the first 15 games of 2016-17, though, Morris struggled, shooting just 31.8 percent from behind the arc. During the Pistons’ recent 7 game stretch, Morris has looked like his old self, shooting 38.7 percent on three-pointers.

Looking closer into the types of shots that Morris has taken shows that his improved shooting is largely due to the types of shots that he’s taking.

Morris is simply taking better shots from three-point range. He’s shooting more catch-and-shoot threes, which is a necessity for him. While Morris is very good at creating his own shot from two-point range, he’s never been successful in creating for himself on three-pointers. Getting clean looks on three-pointers requires a bit more space and Morris doesn’t have the quickness to consistently create that space and shoot efficiently.

In addition to shooting more catch-and-shoot threes, Morris is also shooting more three-pointers within two seconds of his initial touch. That quick shot is important for two reasons. First, it doesn’t allow defenders to close out and make the shot more difficult. Second, shots that come within two seconds of an initial touch are generally going to be more in-rhythm, and thus easier to make.

That second part, shooting in-rhythm, is something that is important to any player’s shooting success. It’s something that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has improved on a lot, and it’s shown in Caldwell-Pope’s shooting numbers this year. But it’s especially important for someone like Morris who can’t create his own shot very well from behind the arc.

All too often early in the season, Morris would shoot three-pointers out of any sort of rhythm.

Against both the Bucks and the Knicks, Morris missed three-pointers where he was as a ball stopper. Rather than trying to create some sort of ball movement, he simply held the ball for several seconds and shot low-percentage shots from a standstill position. These types of shots are difficult for even the best three-point shooters, and they’re surely not the types of shots that Stan Van Gundy wants to see Morris attempt.

In the last seven games, Morris has cut those standstill shots out of his game. As the Pistons’ ball movement has improved in the last two weeks, so has Morris’s shot selection. He’s not forcing standstill shots. Rather, he’s standing behind the arc ready to shoot and he’s able to get in-rhythm as a result.

In transition, Morris was able to get in-rhythm against the Magic by simply passing up a contested three-pointer and resetting.

Here, Morris recognizes that Reggie Jackson has attracted three defenders and he’s in a ready position to receive a pass from Jackson. As Jackson begins to pass, Morris slowly slides to his left. That subtle slide gets him into rhythm and Morris makes the three pointer as a result.

One of the easiest ways to get struggling shooters in-rhythm three pointers is to position them in the corner. Corner threes are generally more open and, because the corner shooter is mostly just positioned for spacing, his only real responsibility is to be ready to shoot if he gets the ball.

Against the Magic, Morris made the most of his two opportunities in the corner. Because he had no real responsibility other than spacing the floor, he was prepared to shoot both times and used just basic footwork to get in-rhythm.

Those corner threes are shots that the Pistons should attempt to get Morris in position more often. In his two seasons as a Piston, Morris has taken by far the fewest corner threes of his career.

If the Pistons can get Morris more corner threes and Morris can continue to shoot only the three-pointers he can get in-rhythm for, there’s good reason to believe that Morris’s hot shooting stretch can continue. And if Morris’s hot shooting continues, the Pistons offense should continue to thrive as well.

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