The Milwaukee Bucks have reportedly signed shooting guard Jaylen Morris on a two-way contract, as he opted out of his recently signed deal in Italy.
Having completed the signing of Trevon Duval to a two-way deal on Tuesday, the Milwaukee Bucks seem to have to come to a decision on their other two-way roster spot according to various reports from Europe.
First reported by international basketball reporter David Pick, former Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Jaylen Morris looks set to be splitting his time between the Bucks and the Wisconsin Herd next season.
Morris, who played six games with the Hawks last season before being waived on July 19, had been snapped up quickly by Larry Brown and his Fiat Torino team in Italy. In spite of just signing that contract on Sunday, Morris had an opt-out clause with the Italian club that would allow him to leave if an NBA team came calling for his services before the end of July.
EuroHoops.net shared a statement from Fiat Torino, confirming the news and wishing the 22-year-old luck on his return Stateside.
“Jaylen Morris will not be part of the Fiat Torino roster in the 2018/19 season. According to his contract, the NBA opt-out clause which would expire at the end of July was used by the player who is ready to sign with the Milwaukee Bucks. Fiat Torino wishes him the best of luck in the most important basketball league in the world.”
After going undrafted out of Molloy College in 2017, Morris was selected by the Erie Bayhawks with the 41st overall pick of last year’s G-League draft.
Morris played 39 games for the Bayhawks, where he averaged 12.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.2 steals in 31.4 minutes per game, while shooting 52 percent from the field and 28.7 percent from deep.
His time with their affiliate in the G League ultimately earned Morris an opportunity to move up to the NBA with the Atlanta Hawks on a 10-day contract at the end of February. Morris played just six games before suffering an injury, yet the Hawks still opted to sign him to a deal for the remainder of the season. Morris even suited up for the Hawks in Summer League earlier this month before being waived.
Of course, both Morris’ time in the NBA and the G League are very relevant to his signing with the Bucks, as he played under new Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer with the Hawks, and under recently added assistant and former Bayhawks head coach Josh Longstaff with the Bayhawks.
Speaking to the Buffalo News in early March, Longstaff praised Morris’ work ethic and defensive impact.
“Jaylen plays as hard as he can every possession, offensively and defensively.
He’s one of our best wing defenders and offensively, he just has such a great ability to get into the paint and make the right play. Both of those things transfer to the NBA.”
In his brief time in the NBA, Morris notably showed plenty of defensive promise in a game against the Golden State Warriors, something which, per Peachtree Hoops, Budenholzer indicated was encouraging and would need to continue.
“He’s got to be great defensively. I think in a short period of time he’s made a good impression with how he can move his feet, how he can stay with his guy, the toughness, a little bit of strength. I think that’s usually, anytime you’re coming from that level— I guess there’s a few exceptions but, for sure, he’s got to be great defensively and I think he can help offensively also.”
Shooting remains very much a work in progress for Morris, whose stroke looks smooth but lacks in consistency, but at 6’5″ with a 6’9″ wingspan, he has the makings of an athletic wing who’s capable of attacking the rim and switching across multiple positions defensively at the very least.
Unless the Bucks opt to sign Xavier Munford to a full NBA deal, something which certainly could be under consideration, this move likely marks a significant change for a player who was the Herd’s best player last season.
Munford is one of just two G League players currently participating in the Team USA mini-camp made up of NBA stars, including Khris Middleton, yet having recently turned 26, he’s further along in his career than the profile of players the Bucks seem to have targeted on two-way deals in recent days.
That marks a change of philosophy and an increased focus on development for the Bucks, and it’s one that could be incredibly valuable if it pays off.