In the 15 games since LeBron James went down with an ankle injury, the Los Angeles Lakers have managed to go a respectable 7-8, avoiding the freefall in the standings that many thought would occur playing without their two stars.
The biggest reason for that is other role players on their Lakers stepping up their play, and perhaps no one has done that more than Markieff Morris.
In Morris’ first 35 games of the season, he averaged just 5.7 points and 4.1 rebounds while shooting 41.7% from the field and 34.3% from 3-point range.
Since James has gone down though, Morris has increased his production to 11.9 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting 46.9% from the field and 35.9% from three in 14 games.
Playing on a veteran minimum contract, the production the Lakers have gotten from Morris well exceeds what he is being paid, and Dennis Schroder made sure to point that out after the L.A.’s win over the Utah Jazz on Saturday afternoon.
“He got to get paid. He’s tough,” Schroder said. “He’s helping us on the defensive end with such toughness. On the offensive end, spreading the floor. … It’s just great that you can see he’s helping us. I’m happy for him. He just got to keep going.”
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope also had high praise for Morris and the versatility he has brought the Lakers this season.
“Yeah, he definitely fills that versatile role that we need. He’s a pick-and-pop big, can shoot the ball, make plays off the dribble and like you said, he’s rebounding the ball. He’s in there trying to get extra possessions for us and also getting defensive rebounds when we need them. He’s an all-around player for us right now and he’s doing his job.”
A big reason for Morris’ increased production has been playing more minutes since being moved into the starting lineup. His offensive aggression has also improved though, as has efficiency, which has been big with the Lakers often struggling to score without their two stars.
It will be interesting to see what role he plays once James and Anthony Davis are back, but he proved during last year’s postseason that he is a player Frank Vogel can trust, so it’s hard to envision him ever falling out of the rotation completely.
Morris confident Lakers will avoid play-in game
The Lakers currently hold the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference standings, giving them a bit of a cushion to avoid falling to seventh, which would force them to win a play-in game to make the postseason.
Even though the Lakers haven’t been able to maintain their stellar play with their two stars from earlier in the season, Morris is confident that they will continue playing well enough to avoid the play-in game.
“I don’t even know what the date is for that, so if it’s next month, that won’t involve us,” he said.
“We’re getting healthy at the right time, this is perfect for us, man. With this crazy season with all these games, back-to-back nights, and days off in between, without our two best players we’ve held it down for the most part. Now we get them back fully healthy and ready to make a run.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!