Starting next Monday, all twenty-eight G League teams will open up training camp and unofficially begin the 2019-20 season. Similar to most leagues, this period is meant to allow players to gain chemistry with their new teammates that they likely haven’t met before that day. Along with that, coaches and executives use training camp to get an understanding of the guys on their roster that can make an impact.
One player that won’t have to worry about getting cut is former Indiana forward Juwan Morgan, who will be starting his pro career as a member of the Salt Lake City Stars. This impending run comes after he spent training camp with the Utah Jazz. In two preseason games with the team, he put up 7 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 block on 80% shooting in 11 minutes per game. Despite that solid production, the Jazz waived the 6’8 forward on October 19th to trim their roster before the start of the regular season.
While not at that same level of efficiency, Morgan is no stranger to putting up solid numbers. He spent his last two years in college as one of the best forwards in the Big 10. An example of that was evident during his senior year with the team as the 6’8 forward put up 15.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals per game on 56% from the field. Although he struggled from the throw line, where he shot 65% on 3.9 attempts per game, our subject still maintained a solid 60% True Shooting Percentage.
Unsurprisingly, that solid production led to the forward receiving accolades. For example, the conference’s coaches named Morgan to the All-Big Ten Honorable Mention team, where he joined current Warriors rookie Jordan Poole. The media members surrounding the conference were more receptive to the forward’s performance as they named him to the All-Big Ten Third Team for his play during the 2018-19 season.
The biggest reason why the 6’9 forward was able to stand out during his time with Indiana was his ability to shine on both sides of the court. From a defensive perspective, he was one of only six players in the Big Ten to average at least one steal and one block per game. That dual nature becomes evident when you watch him play as the forward has the same level of confidence no matter if he’s positioned on the perimeter against guards or staying in the paint trying to protect the rim.
Although he didn’t do it much during his run with Indiana, the 6’9 forward showcased himself to be capable of going on the perimeter and sticking with driving guards. That knack is due to quick feet and body control, which allows him to stick onto the opponent’s hip until the pair reach the restricted area. At that point, Morgan can either go up to block the shot or use verticality to prevent the ball from going airborne.
In addition to doing an excellent job of sticking with driving guards, he’s capable of making effective plays on the perimeter. For one, he does a pretty good job of defending the perimeter, whether that’s through closeouts or using his lanky frame to prevent the offensive player from getting a clear shot off. In addition to those types of plays, he can make a significant impact as an actual on-ball defender.
That’s evident in the play below, where he’s working on the top of the key against UT-Arlington guard David Azore. After the guard catches the pass, he attempts to drive to the rim with his left hand. Before he’s able to start driving to the rim, Morgan has the wherewithal to cleanly snatch the ball right out of his hands and begin to push the ball down the court in transition.
Transitioning over to his work as a rim protector, he shined during his senior season as his 1.5 blocks per game average finished 7th in the Big 10. Morgan’s solid average came from how he was able to quickly spot an opponent was making his way to the rim. Following that recognition, he’s able to move his feet and get in the right position to make the play once that driver gets into the restricted area. Once they meet, the 6’8 forward can use his 7-foot wingspan to make big stops at the rim. More times than not, those blocks stay in play, which allows his team to push the ball down the court in transition. A fantastic example of all that is seen in the play below.
Morgan’s only real flaw as a defender comes when he’s working off-ball as he can occasionally over-help when it’s not necessary. While that sometimes leads to the opponent turning the ball over, that over-attention on the ball handler can lead to someone else having an open lane to cut. That situation could lead to an easy basket at the rim if that other teammate has the wherewithal to both find them and throw a precise pass.
Besides that one flaw, Juwan Morgan stands out as a pretty well-rounded defender that can effectively defend on the perimeter or in the paint. That level of defensive versatility should allow him to a prominent figure on a Salt Lake City Stars team that could be one of the elite forces in the Western Conference during this upcoming series.