Grading the Markieff Morris pick

Markieff Morris will be a solid NBA pro, but the Suns needed to take a risk.

There’s no question the Phoenix Suns addressed some serious needs by drafting 6-foot-10 bruiser Markieff Morris with the 13th overall pick in Thursday’s draft.

The former Jayhawk brings toughness on the interior in the form of strong defensive rebounding, solid post and help defense along with a scrappiness Phoenix is missing.

Morris moves the Suns toward their goal of becoming a more defensive-minded team without altering their offensive attack thanks to his NBA range (42.4 percent from three last season).

The Philadelphia product also boasts a solid back-to-the-basket game and does a great job finishing around the basket.

So if you look at how Morris helps the ultra-soft Suns both offensively and defensively, it’s hard not to like the pick if you’re a Suns fan.

There aren’t many bad things to say about Markieff’s game and character, and there’s no doubt he’ll be right at home in Phoenix, especially since the Suns were No. 1 on his list.

But when you take into account the Suns’ situation as a franchise as well as who was still on the board at 13, the pick becomes questionable. The Suns are wavering between mediocrity and irrelevance and they needed someone who at least gives them a chance to rebuild for the future.

I get that Steve Nash can only play so much longer, and this team needs to get better in both the short term and long term. But the draft is where you get better in the long term. Markieff Morris isn’t going to bring this team back to the Western Conference Finals, just like Aaron Brooks wasn’t going to be the difference between playoffs and no playoffs last season.

A 21-year-old kid with a relatively low ceiling isn’t going to develop into the Suns’ go-to power forward before Nash expires, and that’s if he ever does at all. This was their chance to get better in the long term and add a young player with room to grow into a potential All-Star.

They needed to take a risk, and Markieff Morris may have been the least risky player in the draft. You know what you get with him, but you also know he’s probably never going to turn into a cornerstone.

Obviously you don’t usually get a cornerstone-type player with the 13th pick (especially in a weak draft). I get that, but the problem is that there were guys with potential to become something close still on the board.

Kawhi Leonard, who seemed destined for the top 10, fell right into the lap of the Suns, but like 14 other teams, they passed. Yes, Leonard is yet another small forward that the Suns don’t exactly need, but he’s a freakish athlete (6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan), a great defender and rebounder, and an extremely hard worker with a good motor.

His offensive game needs a lot of work, but he’s the type of player the Suns needed to take a risk on. Even Markieff’s twin brother Marcus has a brighter future in the NBA due to his diverse skill-set. I might have even taken the upside of an Iman Shumpert over Markieff’s instant impact.

Markieff is very good at what he does and will be rotation player in the NBA for a decade plus, but he’ll never be a game-changer, which is exactly what the Suns needed.

There’s no doubt Markieff fits the system and will make an impact as early as next season. He’s a high-character, mature kid who’s NBA ready and enthused about being in Phoenix.

But I would have liked to see the Suns swing for the fences during a time where change is necessary. Because of that, I give Lance Blanks, Lon Babby and John Treloar a B- in their first draft as the Phoenix Suns’ front office.

Final Grade: B-

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