Markieff Morris introduced, should figure into rotation

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PHOENIX — Friday’s introductory press conference was nothing more than a glorified photo op for Markieff Morris to reiterate many of the same things he did on Thursday’s conference call in front of his beaming mother and a cousin who will live with him in Phoenix.

Markieff could not even decide on a number in advance of the press conference so he held up a jersey with Garret Siler’s “20” on the front and an “11” on the back for the year along with his surname.

He spoke in hushed tones that were barely audible from the second row, crediting his mother for making him tough with tough love, discussing the “perfect fit” with Steve Nash and explaining once again that Phoenix was his top choice.

Alvin Gentry took the microphone and said that even if the Suns owned a higher pick they would have selected Morris because “he was the guy.”

Some pundits have seen the pick as a solid need pick but a bit of a reach just because 13 was the high range of where Markieff was expected to be picked.

I’m with the Suns on this one. You can’t call it too much of a reach just because he may have been available a few slots down when your process leads you to a particular player that’s right for your team.

Gentry cautioned against expecting too much too soon, but said, “I think eventually he’s going to be a really, really good player. For us we need a guy who can add some toughness to our team. We need a guy defensively that can rotate, that can do some things. He does all of that, and I think the big thing for us is that he adds all that to our team, but he’s also offensively the way we play and what he brings to the table. He’s a stretch player that can open up the floor, he can get out and run. You think about all the things offensively and what he adds defensively and he was just a great fit for us.”

Morris’ addition immediately creates a glut at the power forward spot to complement the small forward glut. The Suns can now count Channing Frye, Hakim Warrick and Gani Lawal as fours along with Markieff.

Frye could spend some time at the five, but the Suns have Marcin Gortat and Robin Lopez to share that spot for now.

Despite all of that depth and numbers, this was considered such a need because only Gortat and Frye can really be seen as proven quality players. Because of that I feel Gortat, Frye and Morris will occupy the majority of the big minutes for a front line that’s now big, tougher and should hold its own on the boards and in the paint.

The Suns will likely continue to shop Lopez, but if he’s not dealt he doesn’t figure to receive the same kind of automatic minutes he earned last year based on his potential alone.

Warrick may very well fade into oblivion or play some spot minutes when the matchup is right, and Lawal faces an uphill battle to become a rotation player although hopefully the Suns haven’t forgotten about him because he could still develop into another tough rebounder/defender.

The Suns had many a interior body before this pick, but only Gortat can be considered a plus rebounder and defender at this stage of his career. Last year the Suns broke training camp hoping Lopez would turn into that guy whereas this year they know they will play two physical interior players along with a guy in Frye who is steadily improving on the boards.

Along with those added elements, Morris fits how the Suns play because he can space the floor when playing next to Gortat and occupy the interior when next to Frye.

Although he’s not as good a shooter as Frye nor the same caliber of interior player as Gortat at this point in his career, he can complement either Suns big man on the floor.

It seems clear that Morris fits the 2011-12 Suns, but Morris’ big downside remains that he’s not projected to have a big upside.

However, just because he’s pretty good in a number of categories (although not off the charts good at anything like Biyombo’s athleticism or Jimmer’s shooting) doesn’t mean he can’t improve.

Morris got better every season with the Jayhawks — thanks to the tutelage of assistant coach and former Sun Danny Manning, who taught Morris every post move he knows — and perhaps he deserves three or four years before we decide how much better he can become.

The other question, which I brought up on draft night, is who could the Suns have drafted that would have represented a big splash?

Marcus Morris, Leonard and Singleton play positions the team doesn’t need, Jordan Hamilton may be a 20-point scorer one day but he doesn’t possess the kind of awareness a team trying to improve defensively could stomach, and if they went for Shumpert everybody would say he was an even bigger reach.

In a role player draft the Suns picked a well-rounded player who fits their system and looks destined to be a solid rotation player at worst while making the team tougher and better on the boards in the present at the same time.

And if he ends up improving in some of those areas, perhaps history won’t see this selection as such a reach.

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