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Anthony Morrow and the Trail Blazers: What You Need to Know

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The Blazers and Morrow agreed to a non-guaranteed contract today. Here are the implications.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Oklahoma City Thunder Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers have reportedly signed Anthony Morrow to a one-year, non-guaranteed contract in preparation for training camp. Since the news broke this morning, people have been all abuzz about Morrow and his potential. Here’s what you need to know about him and the situation.

Blazers fans probably remember the almost-32-year-old Morrow from his heyday with the New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder. Between 2013 and 2015 the 6’5” shooting guard connected on 229 of 520 three-point attempts, a 44% success rate beyond the arc. His career average stands at 41.7%. That’s elite.

With 55% of his field goal attempts over the last three seasons coming from long range, Morrow can be termed a three-point specialist. He would be the prototype “3 and D” shooting guard except his defense has been missing in action most of his career. He doesn’t dish, he doesn’t foul, he doesn’t get to the hoop, and he doesn’t stop anybody. He shoots triples. There you go.

Two items of concern dog Morrow as he tries out for Portland. Over the last two seasons he played 1600 minutes combined, fewer than most single-season totals in his career. Injuries contributed, but he also earned DNP-CD’s. His 30.8% performance from beyond the arc last year didn’t help his cause. That’s like eating a pie without any filling: pretty crusty.

By comparison, Archie Goodwin, one of Portland’s other training camp prospects, shot 33.3% last season, albeit on far fewer attempts. But he’s also a more versatile player. (and nine years younger).

Morrow will try to bounce back with the Blazers. Whether he can do so is an open question. Trading Allen Crabbe opened a space in the rotation, but Evan Turner and CJ McCollum still exist. Morrow has thrived when playing 24 minutes or more per night. So far he’s not a 12-minute, spot substitute. But that might be what the Blazers need from him.

Projecting minutes, or even Morrow making the team, is putting the cart before the horse, however. Morrow is the biggest name the Blazers have invited to camp, but he’s not much closer to making the roster than other invitees, despite the lofty sound of “one-year, non-guaranteed contract” versus “training camp contract”.

Most non-roster training camp participants are struggling to make the NBA. Their goal is to prove themselves worthy of that coveted contract offer. When it comes, they’re not going to turn it down. There’s no reason for a team to offer them anything other than an invitation to try out.

A veteran like Morrow is slightly different. The questions for him are less “if?” and more “still?” and “if so, where?” In these cases, a non-guaranteed contract makes more sense than a bare invite. If Morrow performs well, the Blazers get first dibs on him. They don’t have to worry about him running off to join the Lakers or holding them up for $6 million per year after a sterling pre-season. If they don’t want Morrow, they cut him. We don’t know details, but it’s possible the contract has a minimal partial payoff if Morrow is released, in essence giving him a stipend for trying out with the Blazers even if he doesn’t make it. It’s also possible the contract is near the top of his market value, so the rewards for making Portland’s squad are greater than he’d get from other teams. Those provide incentive from his end.

Both sides win from this kind of arrangement, but it does NOT mean Morrow has filled the 15th slot on Portland’s roster. The Blazers would take little or no financial penalty from passing on Morrow and going with Goodwin or someone else. He’ll still need to prove himself to turn “non-guaranteed” into a roster spot.

Peruse Anthony Morrow’s stats on basketball-reference.com.

—Dave @blazersedge / @davedeckard / blazersub@gmail.com