Undrafted out of Georgia Tech, Anthony Morrow entered the 2008 Orlando Summer League expected to be little more than a roster-filler for the Miami Heat — a practice player for an exhibition team.
But a shoulder injury to the already established Daequan Cook cracked the door. And Morrow busted it in.
“If (Cook) doesn’t get hurt,” Morrow reflected to ESPN a few years ago, “I probably don’t get a chance to play.”
Over the next week, Morrow impressed with his dead-eye shooting, which included a 16-point showing against Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the yet to be named Oklahoma City team. It earned him another look the next week, this time in the Vegas and Rocky Mountain summer leagues with Golden State.
Morrow again turned heads — he made 16 of his 19 3-pointers and still holds the single-game summer league record of 47 points — and instead of the standing offer from a Ukrainian team he planned to accept, Morrow was handed a rookie deal with the Warriors.
“When you've got a gift in the NBA, a definite skill, all we had to do was find him,” former Golden State coach Keith Smart said of the Morrow discovery.
Almost immediately, Morrow cemented his place in the league.
Seven games into his rookie season, he’d vaulted from the end of the bench into a rotational lynchpin. In mid-November, with the Warriors battling some injuries, Morrow had a brief stint in the starting lineup. In his first game, he scored 37 points on 20 shots. In his second, he dropped 25 on 12.
It was the debut act for a guy who would soon become one of the league’s best microwave scorers, an elite shooter who can heat up and drop double-digits in a heartbeat.
In that inaugural, eye-opening season, Morrow became the first rookie in NBA history to lead the league in 3-point proficiency (46.7 percent). In Year 2, Morrow averaged 13 points and hit a career-high 140 threes, earning a three-year, $12 million contract with the Nets.
He continued to excel in New Jersey, averaging double-digits each of the next two years and ending the 2010-11 season with the second-highest career 3-point percentage among qualified players (44.7 percent). But after a down 2012-13 season, which included a pair of trades and some nagging injuries, Morrow’s stock had dipped. He struggled for both the Hawks and Mavericks and was forced to sign a minimum contract with the Pelicans.
But this past season for New Orleans, Morrow resurrected his career a bit.
Playing only 19 minutes per night, Morrow was able to average 8.4 points on 45 percent 3-point shooting. He again flashed that unique sparkplug ability off the bench, altering games with his streaky shooting.
It’s what has defined the steady career of this undrafted free agent. And it’s why he appealed so much to Sam Presti and the Thunder, leading to the three-year, $10 million partnership agreed upon this past weekend.
In six seasons, Morrow has 21 games of at least 25 points and six games of at least 30, including a 42-point outburst three seasons ago. Beyond Durant and Westbrook, the rest of the Thunder roster has combined for only 19 career games of at least 25 points and one game of at least 30.
Morrow has a unique skill set. And it has led him to Oklahoma City.