When the Charlotte Bobcats made Adam Morrison the third overall pick in 2006, this is likely what they would have liked to see from him in his first summer out of college. Three years and one torn ACL later, Morrison was a dominant scoring threat from start to finish in Vegas. His knee appeared healthy and his offensive game looked much more like the one he displayed during his days at Gonzaga than the one that earned him 11.8 points per game on only 37.8% shooting as a rookie.
Not an impressive athlete by any standards, perhaps the most important thing Morrison showed here was not that he could still score, but that he was able to keep up in an NBA-style setting. In fact, his first basket of the summer was a two handed slam off a give and go in transition early in a Lakers victory over the Toronto Raptors. In addition to knocking down the type of shots that earned him national attention years ago, Morrison even got to the rim off the dribble in a few half court situations.
Always the aggressor, Morrison came out firing in each of his four games in Las Vegas. Though he didnt get hot from the perimeter until the second half of the Toronto game, he made his presence felt in a hurry, hitting a pair of off balance pull up jumpers to set up a drive and dish pass that earned a teammate two shots from the foul line. Morrisons shooting stroke is still a thing of beauty, and his ability to get his jumper off at his size with his quick release and terrific accuracy leaves some room for optimism regarding his ability to stick in the NBA.
With his confidence at what was probably a three year high, Morrison used the triangle to his advantage, making the most of his open looks from the perimeter and using hand offs to create driving lanes which he used to get off his midrange jumper. His terrific scoring instincts are obviously still very much intact, as he showed on a number of occasions with his ability to convert floaters, step-backs, and execute complicated spin moves. Possessing deft touch on nearly all of his shots, one of the biggest issues Morrison had this week in terms of offense was his tendency to settle for bad shots. Not all that efficient a player at the collegiate level already, his inability to convert the fade-aways and contested jumpers he attempts inside the arc at an acceptable rate is one of the major reasons hes struggled to get his NBA career going thus far. Morrisons 2-point percentages hover well below the 40% range, which is simply unacceptable for a player his size.
When he was able to get closer to the basket, he showed a couple savvy up and under moves, but wasnt able to connect with very good consistency from in close. His lack of strength and athleticism hurts him here in a major way, and is yet another reason why his game just hasnt translated from the WCC-level to the NBA at this point. Playing for Gonzaga, Morrison was able to get to the free throw line almost at will, but without getting the type of calls now he was used to a few years back, that part of his game has completely evaporated, and with it, his scoring efficiency.
In addition to having some issues around the rim in half court sets, Morrison also had a number of passes deflected in the paint, though he did create a few good looks for his teammates when giving the ball up closer to the elbow, despite never being known for his passing skills. With his shot back in working order, the name of the game for Morrison moving forward will be to get the other offensive moves that used to make him effective back to a consistent level, since many of his other weaknesses may not be correctable.
Despite all the success Morrison found offensively on his way to a 20.8 point per game average, he showed both of his biggest weaknesses: his poor defensive presence and the offensive inefficiency that has hampered his NBA career. As always, his lateral quickness was an issue defensively, as he had a hard time running around screens and had no chance to recover if he closed his man out off balance. While he wont ever be a decent defender on the NBA level, he had a couple of nice possessions in Vegas where he at least wasnt a liability due to the intensity he displayed.
At this point, the two things Morrison needs are confidence and consistency. He showed both here in Las Vegas, though his final game was eerily reminiscent of some of the contests from his rookie season. Despite being in a shooting funk, things could have been a whole lot worse given that he scored 17 points and led his team to victory. The Lakers wont need him to be quite that prolific moving forward. Morrison would be well served on tightening up his game and trying to become as efficient and versatile a role-player as he can, as he clearly doesnt possess the athleticism to emerge as a feature scorer. His spot up shooting could be a welcomed asset, and if he can find a way to at least become an acceptable passer, rebounder, and defender, he could earn some minutes off the bench. Looking at his full body of work this week, he may be heading in that direction, although the jury is still out.