It is widely expected that point guards will be the first two players taken in next month’s NBA draft.
Monte Morris, the former Iowa State guard by way of Grand Rapids, Mich., is not one of those two. Still, when asked by a reporter in March whether he believed himself to be the best college point guard in the country, Morris gave an unequivocal response.
“Definitely,” he said.
It’s an opinion Morris doubled down on Monday after participating in a pre-draft workout for the Kings at the Golden 1 Center.
“I mean, I put in the work,” Morris said. “I think I’ve got a lot of stuff in my game a lot of people haven’t even seen yet, and I feel like the NBA is definitely where I can show that. With not much help defense, the floor’s so spaced and I feel like I’m good in space.
“So that’s the swagger I bring, man. I lace up to be the best. I don’t lace up to be the third, fourth or fifth-best guy. That’s my mentality going into it, and that’s just how I feel.”
A 21-year-old who left Iowa State after his senior year as the program’s all-time leader in wins, assists and steals, Morris is projected a late second-round pick by draftexpress.com.
The Kings have the fifth and 10th overall picks and an early second-rounder at No. 34, but they have needs at point guard. Darren Collison and Ty Lawson are both unrestricted free agents and Langston Galloway, the Kings’ lone point guard under contract for next season, could opt out of the final year of his two-year deal if he wants to test free agency.
Morris interviewed with the Kings at the draft combine earlier this month in Chicago and said Monday he thought the meeting went well.
“When I walked in the room, it felt like love,” Morris said. “It was about 16 of them. I was nervous at first. But I opened up. It was a great interview. I feel like that was my best one, as far as just the way everybody vibed with me and everything.”
Morris averaged 16.4 points and 6.2 assists as a senior. He helped lead Iowa State to the Big 12 Tournament championship and was named to the all-conference first team.
His most striking accomplishment: Over four seasons, Morris had a 4.65-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio – the best in NCAA history.
“I look at the basketball as my mom’s purse,” Morris said. “I wouldn’t want nobody taking that from me or her.”
It’s not a flashy statistic, but it means Morris rarely cost his team possessions while running the Cyclones’ pro-style offense. He turned the ball over 42 times in 35 games his senior season and 165 times in 140 games overall.
“Every organization knows what I bring to the table,” Morris said. “Nowadays they get sold on guys playing above the rim, guys that can run really fast. But at the end of the day, when you’re playing basketball, it’s about making the right plays and representing your position.
“(At) point guard, that’s taking care of the basketball and making shots, and I feel like I can do every one of those.”
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, Morris described himself as “slender” but said he can probably bulk up to 185 pounds to guard bigger opponents in the NBA. He faced a deep point guard class in the Big 12 last season that included projected draft picks Jawun Evans (Oklahoma State) and Frank Mason III (Kansas).
Morris said he’s also friends with Kings shooting guard Buddy Hield from Hield’s time at Oklahoma.
“He said he’d love to play alongside me,” Morris said. “Here would be a great spot. I don’t know their situation, but if they do need a point guard, and I’m that guy, I’ll be ready to put on that black and purple for sure.”
Morris was one of six players at Monday’s workout. The Kings also brought in guards J.J. Frazier (Georgia) and Corey Sanders (Rutgers), forward Jamel Artis (Pittsburgh), and centers Luke Kornet (Vanderbilt) and Mangok Mathiang (Louisville).