Markieff Morris under the microscope

Markieff Morris dunks for Kansas.

For the last three years, Markieff Morris earned the label as the lesser Kansas twin (the Phoenix Suns know all about that — see Robin Lopez, Taylor Griffin).

He never scored as many points, played as many minutes or earned as many accolades as his twin brother Marcus Morris.

Marcus averaged 17.2 points per game his senior year, while snatching Big 12 Player of the Year honors.

Markieff put together a solid season (13.6 points and 8.3 rebounds), yet hasn’t earned near the same praise as his brother entering the 2011 NBA Draft.

But as the draft creeps closer, it’s becoming more apparent that Markieff may very well sneak into the lottery and build a nice NBA career for himself — a career that could easily start in Phoenix.

Markieff is a fringe lottery pick, while the Suns hold the 13th pick and are in dire need of a power forward that can defend, rebound and shoot from distance. With that said, here’s a close look at Markieff’s strengths and weaknesses as well as how he would fit in with the Phoenix Suns.

Strengths

Markieff does a lot of things well on the floor, but he makes a living on the defensive end. Once he arrived at Kansas in 2008 it became clear he was the hard-nosed bruiser type, with rebounding and defense first on his agenda.

Markieff led the Big 12 in rebounding (8.3 per game) last season while playing only 24.4 minutes per game. According to Statsheet.com he finished third in the conference in defensive rebounding percentage (24.65) and sixth in offensive rebounding percentage (13.85).

He gets after it on the glass, but what impressed me even more was his activity and awareness on the defensive end. He’s long enough (6-foot-11 wingspan) to be a decent NBA shot blocker (1.1 per game in college), big enough (6-foot-10, 245 pounds) to bang in the post, yet quick enough to defend small forwards and hedge screens effectively.

Here’s a clip depicting his natural instincts and foot speed on defense:

While defense and rebounding are what he’s known for, Markieff Morris is nowhere near a one-dimensional player. In fact, he led the Big 12 in field goal percentage (58.9%) his senior year. His post game remains a little unpolished, but he has some nice elements to work off of.

Here you can see a back shoulder fadeaway from short distance. It’s a little slow to develop but the fact that he has that move at age 21 is a good sign.

Morris also has great touch around the rim. He has a great feel for offensive spacing — a product of Bill Self’s extra spacious system — and knows how to catch and finish quickly. Here you can see him catch it on the block, know exactly where he is and turn over his left shoulder for an easy jump hook:

Lastly, what could make Markieff a borderline All-Star is his ability to hit the deep ball. He only attempted 59 threes last season but nailed 42.4% of them and his stroke is smooth from distance. There’s no question he’s a set three-point shooter, which is actually preferred from your big man.

He has an effortless release and turned heads during the NBA combine in Chicago. Here’s a look at Markieff’s three-point stroke:

Weaknesses

Given that he’s a borderline lottery pick, Markieff’s going to have a handful of strong points. But for all of his positives, he does have a few areas that need improvement. One thing I noticed in every game I watched was his lack of a motor. While he finds a way to be effective on the glass and defensively, he seems to drift through the motions at times.

Where I found this most evident was in the pick and roll game. Not once did I see Morris roll to the bucket after setting a screen, which obviously isn’t ideal for a team built around the pick and roll. Here you can see Morris’ reluctance to roll to the bucket:

Even though Morris didn’t jack up too many threes, he did tend to live on the perimeter a little too much and his shot selection suffered at times. He settled for too many threes early in the shot clock, as you can see by the clip below:

Lastly, Markieff’s offensive repertoire is lacking. His three-point stroke and ability to finish will make him successful in the NBA, but to get to the next level he’ll need a more polished offensive game. He doesn’t have an explosive first step and certainly won’t blow by his defender for a monster dunk.

As you can see below, he struggles from a limited arsenal at times, which is a big reason why he finished second on their team in turnovers (2.1 per game).

How he fits in Phoenix

The Phoenix Suns need a power forward that can defend, rebound the basketball, yet keep the floor spaced with a three-point stroke. Sound familiar? Markieff Morris is a great fit in Phoenix, like he says below:

He played in a spread offense (which the Suns run) at Kansas and would fill a lot of holes in terms of defense and rebounding.

He could be a floor spacer next to Marcin Gortat or a banger next to Channing Frye. In my eyes, Morris is arguably the best pure power forward in the draft. Tristan Thompson has the most talent, Kenneth Faried is a monster rebounder, Bismack Biyombo could be the next big thing on the block, but at this stage Markieff is the most complete and NBA-ready power forward on the board.

But the question is, do the Suns need that right now? They need someone who could some day become a cornerstone for this franchise. The Suns need a power forward who can create his own shots and play the pick and roll while Steve Nash is still around.

With that said, Markieff Morris is a great fit in the Suns’ system, and he’s a safe pick. You know what you’ll get from him, and if his weaknesses develop into strengths, that’s an added bonus. But Markieff Morris is by no means going to turn a franchise around.

Tags: Draft Markieff Morris Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Analysis

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