Cyclones in the NBA: Morris, Burton spark respective teams in wins

Iowa State seniors Monte Morris and Deonte Burton cheer on their teammates during the Cyclones’ semifinal game against TCU March 10, 2017 at the Big 12 Championship in Kansas City, Missouri. The Cyclones won 84-63 over the Horned Frogs. 

Aaron Marner

Several Iowa State players have found their way into NBA rotations this season.

The most prominent example is former Cyclone guard Monte Morris (2013-17), who is averaging 10.8 points and 3.9 assists per game for the Denver Nuggets, who are currently in second place in the Western Conference with a 38-18 record.

Morris dropped 17 points (7-of-11 shooting) and seven assists Monday as the Nuggets beat Miami, 103-87.

Morris started four consecutive games for the Nuggets from Jan. 30 to Feb. 4, leading the Nuggets to a 3-1 record.

In his last 10 games, Morris is averaging 15.1 points, 4.6 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game.

Denver coach Michael Malone said Morris should be in the NBA’s upcoming Rising Stars Challenge. Morris did not make the final roster.

“I saw a guy who should be playing this weekend in Charlotte,” Malone said after Denver’s win Monday. “He should [be] playing in the Rising Stars game. You can’t tell me there are that many players better than Morris.”

Morris also retook the NBA’s lead in assist-to-turnover ratio, like he did all four years in college. Morris’ 6.31 assist-to-turnover ratio overtook Minnesota’s Tyus Jones.

“I talk to Monte [Morris] probably once a week,” said Iowa State coach Steve Prohm. “He called me the other day after the game and we talked … I heard he played well. He’s supposed to be back for the Baylor game so we were talking about that.

“I wish he was in that rising challenge game, I hate that he’s not. Obviously he’s had a tremendous season.”

Elsewhere in the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder won its fourth straight game Monday with a 120-111 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Former Iowa State guard/forward Deonte Burton led the Thunder bench with 18 points (7-of-9 shooting). His former teammate at Iowa State, forward Abdel Nader, played 12 minutes for Oklahoma City off the bench but did not score. He finished with three rebounds.

Burton has played in 19 games for the Thunder this year, splitting his time between the Thunder and their G-League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue.

Burton’s 18 points were a new career-high (previously 11, set against the Charlotte Hornets Nov. 23, 2018). He is averaging 17 points and five rebounds for the Blue in 22 games.

Nader also set his career-high earlier this season, scoring 18 points against Phoenix on Dec. 28, 2018.