Darius Morris and the NBA Draft

Dylan Burkhardt

Photo: iSportsWeb

Yesterday’s development in the Darius Morris NBA draft saga wasn’t actually much of a surprise. It was more or less just following the plan that Morris’s brother outlined a month ago in the Detroit Free Press. Morris had every intention of entering his name in the draft and the decision to officially file his paperwork was just the next step in the process.

At this point it’s probably fair to say that Morris is genuinely conflicted. By not hiring an agent at this point, Morris will be able to garner as much feedback as possible and leave his options open until the May 8th withdrawal date.

Here are some relevant quotes from his brother in that Free Press article:

“He’s going to test the waters,” DeWayne said. “He’s not going to hire an agent. He’s going to go through the process as if he was going to enter the draft.”

“I’ve been with agents, they started the courting process,” said DeWayne. “We’ve been meeting. The reality is this is the situation if not this year, it’s next year. There are people you’ve put on your (family) team. Listening to what they have to say. They’ve been quietly courting us. I mentioned it to him.

“He wants to test the waters. I pitched it to him different ways. I told him. If you’re going to do this, you have to approach the process as if you’re going to the NBA.”

Morris’s brother makes a valid point that you have to take the process seriously for NBA teams to take you seriously. NBA teams aren’t going to waste their time, resources and money to evaluate a prospect that makes it known he’s going to withdraw from the draft. The real decision will be made during the final hours of Sunday, May 8th.

Morris appears to be projected as an early second round pick right now. NBADraft.net has him at #33, DraftExpress at #39, NBADraftInsider at #34 and ESPN’s Chad Ford has him ranked as his 44th best prospect. No drafts have Morris in the first round but it’s pretty clear that he’s knocking on the door.

It seems possible that a couple of strong workout performances could go a long way toward pushing Morris toward the first round. Of course, a couple of poor performances could send him hurdling down into the mid-to-late second round. It’s an extremely fine line and Morris and his family will have the most important decision of his life to make in just over two weeks time.

I have a hard time faulting any underclassman for entering the draft to be a first round pick. That means guaranteed money and accomplishing your dream. The stakes are unfortunately very high, a bad decision can ruin a career. The whole picture changes if Morris leaves too early, gets drafted late in the 2nd round and then finds out the summer league has been canceled due to a pending lockout.

Other Notes

  • Morris has until midnight on May 8th to withdraw his name from the draft, assuming he doesn’t hire an agent.
  • The New Jersey Nets will host a multiplayer workout open to all-NBA teams on May 7th and 8th. The workout will feature 5-on-5 play between around 40 prospects, something individual workouts don’t, and I would expect Morris to participate. The drawback is that the 2nd day of the workout coincides with the withdrawal deadline, providing very little time to solicit feedback and make decisions afterwards.
  • There is credence to the notion that this year’s draft will be significantly weaker than next year’s. Several can’t miss prospects are remaining in school and next year’s freshman class appears to be quite loaded. On the other hand, there’s the reason why many prospects are choosing to remain in school: a potential NBA lockout.
  • The NCAA only allows prospects to “test the waters” once, which means Morris would not have the opportunity after his junior season. Then again, it might not matter much as new NCAA legislation will require underclassmen to make a decision by April 10th, the day before national signing day, which will make “testing the waters” impossible.
  • Kevine

    Good write-up. Thanks for the clarification.

  • JD

    Why would they hold those workouts right up against the deadline? Why not the 6th and 7th?

    • MHoops1

      Because you can’t miss school to participate in workouts and still retain eligibility, and some players will still be in school then–hence, the Saturday and Sunday dates.

  • MiamiWolv


    Do you have any inside info to suggest Morris is conflicted about what he is going to do? Some have suggested its a fait accompli that he is leaving, and he is already preparing to sign with an agent.

    • Jeff

      There was also a rumor circulating that he would be leaving early because it was a constant struggle with his grades. Then he made academic all big-ten. He may decide to leave, but I place zero confidence in internet rumors.

  • michiganhoops4eva

    Great analysis as usual; I think that Morris should and will return to Michigan for his junior year. Morris clearly has the tools to be a successful NBA player: agility, body control, strength, court vision, and 6’4 height at the point guard position.

    His areas of necessary improvement are skills oriented, and if he puts in work during the summer to improve his defense, 3 point shot, and left hand, he can easily become a lottery pick next year. I think it’s in Morris’ best interest to return. The only good reason to enter the draft would be that it’s a weak draft.

    • Mattski

      That’s the new thought in Dylan’s post for me: the field may be stronger next year. (It doesn’t necessarily follow that that means more money now, though. A year in the media spotlight could bring more cash then.)

      The other thing that is always in the back of a player’s mind, though, is possible injury short-circuiting an NBA career altogether. No use getting our knickers in a twist–just gotta wait a few weeks and see what happens.

  • If he’s projected 2nd round and leaves then that is foolish. If he’s projected second round and gets feedback to get him into the first round after another year then that’s smart. Like Dylan said, it doesn’t sound like this process is going to be available to kids starting next year (I hate the NCAA).

  • Anton

    the field overall will be stronger, but at the PG position? I can’t think of a higher rater point than Darius Morris if he shoots 40% from 3. Can you?

    • Beast1530

      I could if a PG is a great athlete. Morris isn’t an explosive athlete who gets by defenders with his first step. That’s part of the reason why I don’t ever see Morris as a lottery pick at anytime(not this year but the year after that).

      • JD

        The guy he often gets compared to, not just because of their facial resemblance, is Andre Miller. He went 8th in his draft, while putting up similar numbers to what Darius did this year. Obviously, the numbers don’t break down how he was going to his left or his defense but there are still a lot of first round PG’s that aren’t elite athletes. Not everyone is Derrick Rose, Paul or Westbrook. Rajon Rondo isn’t a blur or a guy who is going to dunk over you. Deron Williams, Chauncey Billups and Miller are all bigger PG’s that aren’t elite in terms of speed and vertical jumping ability. I think Darius is an above average athlete and has shown he can get to the hole one way or another.

        He’s got strong NBA potential. I just don’t think he’s quite refined enough yet to assure a long career and think he can get more prepared in Ann Arbor.

        • Beast1530

          Rondo is a freakish athlete who has outstanding first step. I don’t know what you have been watching but saying Rondo isn’t a blur is incorrect.

          I never said Morris isn’t a 1st rounder, I said that I don’t think he’s a lottery pick because of his lack of first step explosiveness that you see from PG.

          • JD

            My bad on Rondo, although I still don’t think of him at the level of speed as Rose and Westbrook and definitely not in terms of attacking above the rim. I tend to think of him more in terms of being a great passer and those other two guys are just freaks.

    • georgeesq.

      40% from 3 point range is a gigantic IF. Hell, 35% would be a stretch.

  • Mattiz

    When you say they can only “test the waters” once, do you mean that he will be ineligible to enter the draft after his junior season since he chose to enter it this year? Or do you mean that he can’t enter the draft following his junior season if he does not withdraw from the draft this year by May 8th? If he’s made himself ineligible for next year’s NBA draft ALREADY, then I’d say we are in trouble.

    • Mike

      “Testing the waters” means technically entering the draft but electing not to hire an agent, leaving the player eligible to pull out of the draft and return to school. This works only once, however. If a player enters the draft but decides to return to school, he can’t do the same in a subsequent year — if he chooses to enter the draft again, there is no going back. The point is to give players one chance to work out for NBA teams and receive concrete evaluations about their stock. With that information in tow in a later year, the idea is that the player doesn’t need to receive another evaluation. So basically, if Darius comes back to school and enters the draft next year, he is officially gone — whether or not he hires an agent.

  • Beilein’s Swish

    Based on the feedback we hear from the pre-draft camps, we’ll get a pretty good idea whether he will or will not enter the draft. Last year alot of players went through this same process and then proceeded to come back, such as Jajuan Johnson, E’twaun Moore, Demetrius McCamey. The good news is that this process will end soon, for the better or worse.

  • Mike

    hmm risk being a second rd pic, no guaranteed money, and a pending lockout vs. coming back for another run w an improving team to develop ur skills….this shouldnt b a hard decision

  • ToBlav

    It makes sense to me that it would be better to be older stronger and more experienced when you show up on the pro scene. If you are more prepared you have a better chance of being successful (a long productive career). I know there are exceptions but I’d bet research would support this idea. Since one never knows, it is just possible that the college years are the best ones a player will ever have. Something is lost when somethings gained. My bias is that every player should finish college, and I am confident the vast majority are better off as a pro if they do.

    • Beilein’s Swish

      That’s not reality. The best players in the NBA had minimal to no experience in college (Lebron, Kobe, etc.). In many cases, the NBA tends to draft on potential, before the players are fully developed physically, and then they develop in a pro-environment where basketball is their full-time job not distracted by school-work, etc.

      Given that, when you’re a marginal NBA player like Darius, it’s not necessarily the right choice to try to enter the draft early. I just hope that he only will enter the draft if a few GMs privately promise him that they will draft him. If he doesn’t have these types of guarantees, he’ll be best adviced to come back to school. The good news is that he didn’t hire an agent, so this is still a possibility.

      • ToBlav

        There is a very real possiblity that Lebron, Kobe, etc. are the exceptions and for each of those there are many times that number of early draftees who would have had a career and/or and much better one if they’d waited. I admit I am bias and want Darius and others like him to stay in college, but the pro environment is more likely to burn off those who are not ready. That is a slice of reality that is underconsidered. The question is how big of slice that is and how to better determine who it applies to. It is not reality to apply any one size fits all theory.

    • Matt

      The flipside of this stance is this:

      In college, he has a set number of allowable hours to practice, a few coaches, and he is not earning any money. He can get better in the pros with more coaching, resources, and time. Also while earning 6 figures or more.

      • billiam

        If you are going to argue the flip-side, I understand. Statistically (look ’em up yourself) it’s the truth that the more time you develop in college the more time you have to be great in the NBA. Why wouldn’t it be? The outliers withstanding, if you look up draft boards you’ll see the truth.

        Telfair, Brown, Darius, etc. are the stats as compared to Kobe and Garnett (how many players as HoFers?)

        Coach B has told D-Mo this, and D-Mo isn’ stoopid.


  • aMaized
  • jmblue

    That NCAA rule change is very disappointing. It seems that schools are putting their interests ahead of their student-athletes’. Giving players the chance to test the waters is a very reasonable accommodation. I wish the NFL would do it as well.

    • jmblue

      To add to that thought, if schools are so concerned about not being able to sign anyone in the spring before a guy makes his decision, why not just push the spring signing period back to May 8?

  • Fred_Ex

    I hate when players do this but its the only way you can do it. Test the water and see where you shake out. However, Darius is an awful three point shooter and a less than average ball handler. like has already been mentioned he is not a quick first step player. the point is all the players who aren’t quick penetrate types are excellent shooters in the nba. Morris’s get to the rack at any cost style is not a benefit to him in the nba. Stopping in the middle of the lane, piloting and head faking (and only to the right) and shooting from the hip back to the basket. I don’t see a first round pick and he hasn’t even hired an agent. What’s the worry about?

    • TheYooper

      Less than average ball handler? What?

      • Fred_Ex

        Why the ahock. A player who can’t use his left hand in the half court, is not an excellent ball handler. I will admit he has a great turnover and turnover/assist ratio, but the ability to drive to the left is necessary for success in the nba. I just don’t know but it seems like forcing a player to the left may create turnover in the league. He is unquestionably our best player.

        • TheYooper

          Yes his left hand is nowhere near his right hand, but ball handling is definitely not anywhere near a weakness for him.

          • Fred_Ex

            What you say appears to be correct. However there is no shortage of talented point guards in the nba. Darius Morris’s glaring weakness is his inability to shoot 3-point shots and dribble with his left hand, any reasonably attentive basketball fan could see this. It is not difficult to force a player who only dribbles right, into the corner. His three point shooting without looking up the stats cannot be better than 25%. If it is it is because he gave up shooting them. Expand that three point line to nba range, and he’s probably a 18-20% three point shooter. My overall opinion on morris is that he improved more than anyone else in the nation at least in the big ten and he did it at Michigan under jb. There is probably nothing to learn in developmental league basketball he cannot learn at Michigan in his junior year. Dance with the one who bring ya. If he decides to go I think it says more about the status of the program than it does about morris himself even if he’s successful.

  • MichBall2010

    Pretty cool video of 2012 commit Nik Stauskas:


    And I got a bad feeling about Darius coming back after a few things I heard through the rumor mill (yes, just rumors) today.

    • ToBlav

      Wow, I can’t even be sure of what he’s doing with the dribble drills, let alone how he does it. I hope the critics keep cutting him down so he’s motivated to get better and better.

    • Where’d you get the rumors?

      • MichBall2010

        People involved in the basketball program who seem doubtful he’ll be back

  • Bluebufoon

    For those following Dominique Pointer career, it remains to be seen, if he will be eligible at St John’s. New York Daily News takes a look at Pointer’s high school, Quality Education Academy. Good luck to Pointer but I still think Stauskas is a better long term fit for U-M basketball.


    • Kenny

      Every kid is a different story. From the report, it seems that Pointer is more likely to qualify than not. But nonetheless had he committed to M, it would be a distraction for the program. As the result, we got Bielfeldt, who is very much the opposite of Pointer.

      My guts feeling is that Morris is gone. Maybe we will hear some news from the German player soon.

  • MikeM

    I’m not sure I can give any credence to a mock draft that puts Morris 19 spots above McCamey, like nbadraft.net has done.

  • oldpro77

    Kids improve every year in college… he should return and improve and be a legit lottery prospect and hit that money… If his brother is pushing him to go now, its because his brother cant wait for the benefits…. Saying that this is just following a dream, BS, nobody has the dream to sit on the bench in the nba…i sure didnt….and when it comes time for cuts because some french prospect needs to have room made for..see ya… but not if you return and start shootin bout a 1000 a day from deep…work on that stroke kid, cus if you don’t, you’ll have plenty of time to do it on the bench.

    ps….doesn’t comin back next year, mean, comin back next year