Suns’ Monte Morris and Mason Plumlee additions were about reliability

Jul 9, 2024, 5:50 PM | Updated: 8:39 pm

Kevin Durant drives by Monte Morris...

Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns drives the ball past Monte Morris #23 of the Minnesota Timberwolves during the second half of game three of the Western Conference First Round Playoffs at Footprint Center on April 26, 2024 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Timberwolves defeated the Suns 126-109. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

There’s no denying that new Phoenix Suns Monte Morris and Mason Plumlee signed minimum contracts because of the opportunity.

Both slot in as rotation players to complement the Big Three. They could be two top subs if the Suns run out the same starting lineup as last season.

It’s likely that Morris and Plumlee had other suitors at the veteran’s minimum level. The Suns’ championship aspirations spoke to them.

“I think Phoenix was the perfect spot for me as far as the opportunity and the chance to compete with a great team, great coach and chance to win a championship,” Plumlee said over a Zoom call Monday.

There’s also the reality that he and Morris, who have age or injury concerns, aren’t expected to carry a heavy load. So, what do the Suns get in terms of their presence?

Well in Morris’ case, the Suns simply didn’t have a true point guard in 2023-24.

“Being a general, being a point guard,” Morris said on a Zoom call Tuesday. “I think it’s big for me to know their games, know their spots and know the type of person they are so I can speak to them. That all ties into what I can bring to the table.”

Morris is coming off an injury-riddled stretch. He averaged 5.1 points and 2.3 assists in 27 regular season games with the Minnesota Timberwolves after being dealt from the Detroit Pistons at the trade deadline.

A quad injury kept him out from last October through most of January before the Pistons traded him, and a hamstring and finger issue popped up through his time with the T-Wolves.

He admitted those injuries were disappointing. Morris is motivated to show it was a one-off.

“The injuries last year I think was a fluke,” he said. “I think it was a blessing in disguise.”

Still, Morris led the NBA with a ridiculous 9.86 assist-to-turnover ratio, among players who appeared in at least 20 games and played at least 10 minutes per outing.

Morris was third (5.43) in that category in 2022-23 playing with Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards. He was seventh (4.27) in 2021-22 while filling a larger role as starter for the Denver Nuggets.

“My mom would always be on me about taking care of the ball,” he said. “She would always say, ‘Don’t let ’em steal my purse from you.’ So, I kinda keep the ball like my momma’s purse.”

He also has familiarity with Plumlee. They crossed over in Denver from 2017-20, and much of that time was spent coming off the bench.

“Monte is such an underrated player. I have so much respect for him. I’ve been in games where he’s hit big shots, made big plays,” Plumlee said.

“The attraction to him … is how well he takes care of the ball. He’s just a really smart player and just makes the game make sense (to other players).”

Plumlee can say the same about himself.

At 34 years old, he’s not the high-flying rim-roller he once was.

But at 6-foot-10, he is a ball-mover and a more mobile athlete than Suns starter Jusuf Nurkic.

Reliability was something that Phoenix couldn’t find at center behind Nurkic last season. Nurkic had the best on-court plus-minus (5.3) and lowest off-court plus-minus (-1.9) on the team last season.

The Suns hope the combination can give the bench something it didn’t have last season: trustworthy depth.

“I think me and Mason, we had a great run in Denver. Threw him a lot — a lot — of lobs,” Morris said. “I feel like we communicate with our eyes. We played together for three years. It was a high level three years.”

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