To say that the last two weeks of Jaylen Morris’ life have been hectic might be considered an understatement. That frantic ride started shortly after the conclusion of NBA Summer League, as the Atlanta Hawks placed Morris on the waiver wire on July 19.
Although he went through that process without getting picked up by an NBA squad, Fiat Torino of the Italian Liga Basket Serie A league announced on July 21st that they signed the former Erie BayHawk for the upcoming season. With that move, it seemed like he’d be spending his 2018-19 season working alongside well-known names like Carlos Delfino, Royce White, James Michael McAdoo and Pelicans prospect Tony Carr. Morris was poised to play under former NBA head coach Larry Brown.
However, those plans would change once again before Morris had an opportunity to start packing his bags. The Milwaukee Bucks signed him to a two-way deal on July 31.
As a player on a two-way deal, he’ll have an opportunity to spend 45 days with Milwaukee and receive the rookie minimum salary on a per-day basis when the G League season is going on. Aside from those occasional chances, he’ll essentially be a better paid G Leaguer as he’ll earn $77,250 while players on standard deals will get $35,000.
When it comes to his impending situation with the Bucks, it would be surprising to see Morris even get to that 45-day maximum with the team. The Bucks already have solid depth at the wing with the following players: Khris Middleton, Pat Connaughton, Donte DiVincenzo, Sterling Brown, Tony Snell.
Although that predicament might be disappointing to Morris, staying in the G League for another season is probably for the best. The 22-year-old guard is still a work in progress as an offensive player as he was barely even a below-average perimeter or mid-range shooter when he was with Erie. In either area, he couldn’t even shoot 30% as he was 29% from beyond the arc and 23% on shots from between 8 feet to the NBA 3-point line. Despite that awful shooting, he was still able to impress in the G League as he put up 12.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game on 52% from the field.
Morris was able to have that type of production despite a lackluster perimeter/mid-range shot because of an ability to drive to the rim whenever he desired. Although the majority of his drives came with his right-hand, he stood as a near unstoppable force due to the following factors: a blazing quick first step, solid dribble moves and athleticism that allowed him to have great finishes around the rim. Those traits allowed him to shoot 67% from inside the restricted area with the BayHawks.
That singular skill, combined with his excellent work on defense, helped push Morris to shine in the G League before getting an opportunity in the NBA with the Atlanta Hawks. However, if he wants an extended career in the NBA, he’s going to at least have to become a league-average perimeter shooter. Because unless you’re an amazing defender (Andre Roberson) or mid-range shooter (DeMar DeRozan), it’s nearly impossible to be a wing in the modern-day Association unless you’re at least an average Due to Milwaukee’s deep depth at wing, Morris will fortunately able to use a season with the Wisconsin Herd to improve as a perimeter shooter.
Although he’s still definitely a work-in-progress because of his fledgling jumper, the 22-year-old still stands as a decent prospect because of solid skills and an incredible work ethic that allowed him to go from being a DII star to being on the Atlanta Hawks in a single calendar year. Is the great work of Josh Longstaff and the rest of the BayHawks’ coaching staff a factor behind Morris’ growth? Definitely. But there’s no doubt that Morris progressed so quickly because of how hard he worked to refine his strengths in practices and workouts.
Coinciding with that terrific work ethic, another reason to be optimistic about Morris comes from how he’ll actually have a chance to work with NBA-quality trainers and coaches due to his status as a two-way prospect with the Bucks. The Bucks assistant coach that should be the most beneficial for the 22-year-old to work with is Ben Sullivan.
Before he joined Mike Budenholzer in Milwaukee, Sullivan was a shooting czar for the Hawks as he helped push various players to become better perimeter threats after he arrived in 2014. The best example of this would be his work with Kent Bazemore as Sullivan’s tutelage helped push the 6’5 guard’s 3-point percentage from 34% in 2013-14 to 36% in 2014-15 when he became an Atlanta Hawk. In subsequent years, that growth continued to the point where Bazemore shot 39% from beyond the arc on 4.2 attempts per game in the 2017-18 season.
Although Morris won’t have the opportunity to work with Sullivan on a day-by-day basis due to his status as a two-way prospect, he can still work with the shooting czar during off-season workouts, training camp and pre-season. During that time, Sullivan can figure out the flaws in Morris’ shooting stroke and give him the lessons that he can utilize when he’s with the HerdWhile the duo will be mostly separated when the G League season begins, Morris could work out with the Bucks when the team is on a home trip. Alongside that, Sullivan can make the short drive from Milwaukee to Oshkosh to work with Morris or fellow two-way prospect Trevon Duval.
While rebuilding that shooting stroke will definitely be a huge challenge, Morris’ great work ethic combined with the opportunity to train under Ben Sullivan should leave any Bucks fan optimistic that he can make the necessary strides with the Wisconsin Herd. If those improvements do take place, then Morris will definitely be a prospect that has ridiculous upside.