When Darius Morris committed to Michigan he was arguably the highest rated commitment that John Beilein had landed during his coaching career. Beilein spent a significant amount of time recruiting the California native after prioritizing him early in the process. In many ways, Morris’s commitment helped alleviate concerns regarding Beilein’s recruiting, as he was clearly a different level of prospect than Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, Ben Cronin and Jordan Morgan. Morris’s commitment was a recruiting statement and fans expected an immediate impact.
After being touted as the future of the program before setting foot in Ann Arbor, Morris’s freshman season was a disappointment. He turned the ball over, shot poorly from the perimeter and looked nothing like a top 100 player. He never looked comfortable on either end of the court and was the least efficient offensive player that played major minutes in a season that went horribly wrong from the get-go.
The Darius Morris that we saw this season was a completely different player. Whether it was the workouts with John Wall back home in California, long hours working on his jump shot, or just feeling more comfortable in his role, Morris was easily one of the top five most improved players in the country. He seized control of the Michigan offense. Not just by taking and making big shots but also setting up his teammates. From game 1 to game 35, this was Darius Morris’s show.
- Creating for Others: Morris was arguably the best setup man in Division-I basketball. He assisted 44% of Michigan’s made field goals while he was on the floor, the third best assist rate in Division I and one of just two major conference players in the top 20. Morris handed out seven dimes per game and had a number of jaw dropping assists, whether they were 40-foot passes, off the pick and roll or made while falling onto the floor.
- Two Point Shooting: Morris made 53% of his two-point shots, a figure which stacks up very favorably against other guards. He showed an uncanny ability to create shooting space in the lane and showed tremendous coordination to make shots from a variety of angles. He excelled with the ball on the post, using his size to score over smaller guards, and just always seemed to find a creative way to get the ball in the hoop. It wasn’t always a thing of beauty but Morris produced.
- Free Throws: John Beilein’s teams have never done a good job of getting to the charity stripe but Morris was the one Michigan player that consistently showed the ability to earn freebies. He attempted a team best 151 free throws, one of just two Wolverines to top 100 FTAs, and drew five fouls per game 40 minutes (9th B1G). Morris also improved his free throw shooting percentage significantly pulling it from 63% to 72%.
Room for Improvment:
- Perimeter Shooting: Three point shooting was the one glaring weakness of Morris’s game and he finished the season 16 of 64 (25%) from three point range. That was better than his 18% a year ago but a truly consistent three point shot, something like 33%, would make Morris nearly impossible to guard.
- Going Left: Darius was able to work through his strong preference to use his right hand because of his size and creativity which allowed him to make so many two point shots. Still, teams overplayed Morris to the right and often dared him to go left. He seemed to improve as the season went on, finding some opportune times to drive and finish with his left hand, but still strongly favors his right hand.
- Defense: Morris has all of the tools to be a great defender but he hasn’t shown the consistency required to actually be a great defender. The five or six plays that could go either way distinguish good defenders from great defenders and for Morris those plays seemed to break the wrong way. To his credit, he probably expends more energy, mental and physical, on the offensive end than any other Michigan player but he still could improve on the defensive end.
You want a point guard to make his teammates better and that’s exactly what Morris did this season. He was extremely proficient in the pick-and-roll game, demonstrating great chemistry with his roommate Jordan Morgan, but also managed to find his shooters in prime position. It’s almost impossible to ignore the fact that all of Michigan’s returning three point shooters were significantly more efficient this season compared to last.
Sure there are areas where Morris can improve but as it stands now he’s a terrific college player. It’s scary to think about how good he could be if he’s able to add a consistent three point shot to his repertoire. Over the next 18 days Morris will make very important decisions while deciding whether he wants to enter the NBA draft and then if he wants to withdraw his name or forgo his final two seasons of eligibility. If Morris enters the draft, hopefully it’s because he is confident he’ll be a first round pick. If he returns to school, it’s tough to doubt his offseason work ethic. He improved almost every aspect of his game between his freshman and sophomore seasons and, while similar sized jumps are unrealistic, more improvement should be expected.