: For the fourth and final workout of DraftExpress’ West Coast swing, we visited the 360 Health Club in Los Angeles to watch a private workout with likely top 5 pick Adam Morrison.
The workout was run by former UCLA legend Don MacLean, the all-time leading scorer in UCLA history. Shooting drills were the name of the game here. Morrison started by roaming around the perimeter shooting 18-20 footers from different spots on the floor, 50 to be precise, of which Morrison knocked down 46 of or 92%. NBA 3-pointers followed, and over the course of the workout Morrison shot 5/8, 5/8 and 5/8 from the left corner in 3 separate shooting contests, 5/6, 5/10 and 5/8 from the left corner-wing, 5/8, 5/5 and 5/5 from straightaway, 5/8, 5/11, and 5/7 from the right corner-wing, and then 5/8, 5/5 and 5/5 from the right corner, for a total of 90/110 - or an absurd 82%. In NBA private workouts, 50% is considered average for a wing player, 60% is considered good, 70% is excellent and anything over 80% means you might have a future in the NBA 3-point shooting contest. What’s truly scary is that Morrison looked quite disappointed in his effort for the most part when he wasn’t knocking every single shot down. Some players throw a hissy-fit when their shot isn’t falling in a workout, but Morrison just quietly scolded himself with a confident aura of disappointment, knowing that he is capable of better than that. What this tells us is that no one can question the fact that Adam Morrison brings consistent NBA 3-point range to the table right off the bat for the team that drafts him, and that the 45% he shot from college 3 this year is a lot more indicative of his perimeter shooting ability than the 31% he shot as a sophomore.
Morrison’s shot is technically perfect from a mechanical perspective. In the drills he shot it identically every time, with an incredibly quick release and a super high release point that makes it extremely difficult to block or alter when taking his size and the elevation he gets on his shot into consideration.
Shooting 3-pointers while training by yourself in a gym is one thing, but getting it off in a competitive setting is another matter altogether. Morrison was matched up with a 6-10 and fairly long power forward in Kibwe Trim who had the unenviable task of defending him. While some might say that this is a matchup that Morrison would eat up all day long, which is true, Trim actually did a very nice job of getting a hand in his face on almost every single shot, moving his feet well, trying to anticipate what he’ll do next, using his body and strength to challenge him, and generally doing everything humanly possible to stop him. And while it might be hard for some to believe, Morrison actually shot the ball better while being defended than he did when he was wide open, which tells you a little bit about the type of competitor he is.
Morrison started most of the competitive 1 on 1 possessions from behind the college 3-point line, and used an incredibly wide array of offensive moves to put the ball in the basket nearly every time. His ball-handling skills are phenomenal and he possesses a wonderful arsenal of shot-fakes, jab-steps, hesitation moves, change of speeds and other crafty moves that made him the toughest player to defend in college basketball throughout his career. He mixed up his mid-range game with plenty of slashing, taking the ball strong to the rim and finishing with either a dunk, or a pretty floater or finger roll. When Trim would deny him the angle to the basket, Morrison would calmly and quickly pull-up off the dribble for an incredibly difficult fadeaway shot off one foot. The type of crazy floaters from 14 feet out on the baseline, one handed step-throughs off one foot from 18 feet and other ludicrous moves are things that would get most NBA players benched immediately, but these are things that Morrison practices everyday until he’s reached perfection and made it an art form. Those are shots he’s made throughout his career and he knows exactly what he’s doing when he’s taking and making them. His footwork and touch are off the charts and he can release the ball with consistency from a half dozen or more different release points, which again makes him a nightmare to defend.
The best thing to come out of this workout might have been the work MacLean and Morrison’s strength and conditioning coaches have been doing with his agility. Morrison has more bounce to his step right now than we remember from college, possessing a quicker first step and vertical leap and just much more overall mobility than we’ve really ever seen. Much of this workout was focused on conditioning, and this is something that Morrison himself says has been the biggest improvement he’s seen in his game over the past month or so. Full-court sprints, baseline to baseline, plenty of dunking drills to work on his lower body strength—Morrison’s body seemingly has no choice but to respond with the work he’s been doing here over the past month or so. He’s still as skinny as he was during the season, but according to him, the majority of his work in the weight room will be done during the offseason, not before his private workouts.
One thing that we certainly did not come away impressed with from this workout was Morrison’s defense. He is likely to put a lot more effort in on this side of the floor in a real NBA workout rather than in front of us, but with this being one of the top weaknesses we came to look at, Morrison didn’t do much change our mind here. Getting banged around in the post by the much bigger and stronger Trim was more than understandable, but he did not do a great job of getting out to contest the mid-range shots he took on the perimeter.
All in all, though, Morrison backed up the hype and then some in this workout. Watching him play in a setting like this, it’s hard not to come away with the feeling that his impact in the NBA will be almost immediate. Granted he lands on the right team (Toronto, Charlotte or Portland, for example), he has to be considered the early favorite for Rookie of the Year honors. That isn’t saying that he doesn’t still have room to continue to grow as a player and improve upon his weaknesses, though, as a new dimension to his slashing game will be opened up as he improves on his strength through work in the weight room.
Talking to him off the court, it was surprising to see how humble and good natured he seems to be. From his on-court demeanor and swagger there is a certain impression left that he might be quite an arrogant person off the court as well. After having the chance to sit down with him after the workout and conduct a candid and wide-ranging conversation with him over lunch, that was not the impression at all. He seems to realize that there will be an adjustment period from the NCAA to the NBA, but is confident enough in himself and his work to know that he’ll be fine.
Perhaps the most telling sign of his personality to come out of this entire day came after we first met in the parking lot before we both walked in. While I was signing in to the gym as a guest, he caught wind of a big-screen TV on the other end of the room showing an old NBA finals series from the 80’s between the Celtics and Lakers. Morrison was in a trance for a few moments as he watched the players on screen go at it. Already done signing in, I stood next to him wondering which direction I needed to walk towards. Morrison snapped out of it all of a sudden and smiled sheepishly…”sorry, that happens to me sometimes.”