PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns remain squarely in “win with Nash” mode after selecting Markieff Morris with their lottery pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
Morris’ toughness and rebounding provide Phoenix with critical missing pieces, and the former Jayhawk’s ability to space the floor makes him a fit offensively in a Nash-driven system.
Purely thinking about 2011-12 and however much longer Nash’s Phoenix career lasts, the Suns weren’t going to do much better than Markieff Morris sitting at No. 13 in a weak draft.
Thus Morris’ selection further signals Nash is going nowhere (as if the Lon Babby loop of “We aren’t trading Steve Nash” comments didn’t already do so). This franchise is not yet ready to rebuild and will continue its quest for one of the final Western Conference playoff spots next season.
Thinking long term I would prefer a Nash trade, a tank season after the lockout and then a top 2012 selection to go with whatever you get back for Two Time.
So long as the organization isn’t on board with that scenario, it’s time to start thinking about a Nash contract extension. It’s one thing to refuse to trade Nash, but it’s another to get nothing for him now and then watch him jet next offseason.
Back to Morris, his selection most likely represents a single or a double at best. However, unlike many potential options at No. 13 he’s practically a guaranteed single, a safe pick, as Mike Schmitz wrote.
He’s going to rebound, he’s going to bang in the post, he’s going to bring toughness and athleticism. Markieff Morris is going to be a rotation player for a number of years.
However, unlike so many wildcards in this draft, Morris is just as unlikely to be a top-three player on an elite team anytime soon.
Of course, Morris and Blanks questioned why everybody is so sure Markieff lacks a high ceiling.
“I think he’s growing as a player,” Blanks said. “It’s really hard to predict who’s trending upward or sideways or who’s maxed out based on how they were in college because this is a totally different environment. … I think the reason why you don’t hear about people talking about his potential is he has a maturity that is rare for a young man his age.”
Added Morris, “My goal is just to win and be a winner. I’ve always been a winner. A lot of guys say I don’t have upside, but we’re going to see.”
The other question often asked about this pick is why select Markieff when his more-heralded twin Marcus and expected top-10 pick Kawhi Leonard were still on the board.
As for those two players, the obvious answer is that the Suns sought a power forward rather than more glut at the three. Leonard was enticing because he also projects to be fairly bust proof, but the Suns just could not add ANOTHER small forward. They also must have seen Marcus as more of a three and preferred the skills Markieff brings to the table as a player with a definitive position at an area of need.
Although I would have rather seen the Suns take a Justin Upton-sized swing on the pick that could have netted a superstar with a sizable possibility of striking out, was there really anybody there with star potential?
Making their first pick as a front office with the No. 13 pick in a weak draft isn’t exactly the time to obtain the franchise’s next star.
Instead Babby and Blanks filled in another crack with a player who should be another quality role player.
“It’s extremely important to get a player like Markieff,” Blanks said. “This gives us an opportunity to lay our imprint on this organization and this team. This is our first draft choice and first opportunity through the draft to do this. Very excited to have the opportunity to pick, but also a pick that reflects who we are and what we want to be about.”
The Morris pick and the Suns’ refusal to dangle Nash or Marcin Gortat for a potential young superstar in Derrick Williams proves the team will continue to attempt to rebuild on the fly, and for next year’s purposes if they find a way to replace Vince Carter with a quality shooting guard this could be a playoff team.
But one day Nash will no longer be around, and the events of tonight brought the Suns no closer to finding a potential future star. Instead Phoenix played it safe and filled a need.
Still, there are far worse fates than drafting a likely rotation player at the end of the lottery in a crummy draft even if there’s nothing sexy about selecting Markieff Morris.