What advanced stats say about Markieff Morris

Markieff's efficiency on the boards and with his shot in college make him a Wins Produced favorite. (Photo by Michael Schwartz/ValleyoftheSuns)

Markieff's efficiency on the boards and with his shot in college make him a Wins Produced favorite. (Photo by Michael Schwartz/ValleyoftheSuns)

When combing through some of the advanced metrics in advance of the draft, I was surprised to see Markieff Morris grade out as a steal when using Wins Produced-related metrics but a bust on John Hollinger’s Draft Rater.

Perhaps that underscores how difficult it is to project prospects, but still to see such a stark opposite opinion (and the same in reverse for Suns target Tristan Thompson) was quite interesting to me.

On the positive side for Markieff when looking at Position Adjusted Win Score per 40 minutes, I wrote:

The guy who immediately sticks out to me is Markieff Morris, who ranks second among power forwards with a 13.5 PAWS40 behind only Kenneth Faried, the small school product whose 17.2 score laps the field.

Markieff ranks a spot ahead of Derrick Williams in this measure (12.7 for the UA star) and also ranked in the top 10 of John Hollinger’s college PER (29.74), where Williams was third (32.69).

What impresses me most about Markieff is his stellar defensive rebound rate. He corralled 24.4 percent of the available defensive rebounds and 17.7 percent of the available boards. Since rebounding often translates to the pros, this bodes very well for Markieff, who edged out his twin for the Big 12 PER lead. According to StatSheet, Markieff excelled in true shooting percentage as well, shooting 61.1 percent two years ago and 64.1 percent last year when he ranked second in the Big 12.

Arturo Galletti analyzed prospects on the Wages of Wins Journal in further depth by building a pair of models using this general metric, and Markieff is one of just six rookies both models project to be productive as rookies. They predict Morris to compile a 0.095 WP48 as a rookie, ranking him behind just Faried, Irving, Leonard, Burks and Williams.

Of course, shooting a high percentage and rebounding many misses will earn you solid WP48 numbers so it’s no surprise Morris would do well in such a simulation, but if he can maintain those efficiency numbers in the pros the Suns will walk away very pleased with this draft.

They won’t if the Hollinger model predictions come to fruition, however.

The Draft Rater projects Morris to be a career backup with a 10.03 rating that ranked 16th among draft-eligible college big men behind guys like Matt Howard and Jamie Skeen, neither of whom were drafted despite their March exploits.

As for the Hickory-High Similarity Scores, Morris appears to be most similar to Charlie Villanueva, Chris Bosh, Marreese Speights, Marvin Williams and Tyrus Thomas.

Finally, Seth Pollack took a look at Markieff with college Synergy for SBNation Arizona and found out that Morris scored 34 percent of his points in post-up situations, where he hit just over 50 percent of his shots to rank as “excellent” in this department. The Kansas product enjoys setting up on the left block, as just over half his interior opportunities came from that spot.

What does all this mean?

Well, let’s be honest we won’t know until Markieff laces them up in an NBA game for the first time.

What I do find encouraging is the fact that rebounding generally translates to the professional game and along with his solid defensive rebounding stats, Morris corralled 13.8 percent of the available offensive boards, sixth in the Big 12. It’s pretty safe to project Markieff to be an above-average NBA rebounder based on his college numbers, and it’s no secret how much help the Suns need in that department.

He also shot the ball with both range and efficiency in college, and if he can do that in the pros while supplying requisite defense and toughness then nobody will remember that he wasn’t supposed to have any upside.

Suns holding rookie mini-camp

With the lockout looming on Friday, the Suns are holding a mini-camp this week for Morris to get his first taste of the NBA and for the team to take another look at undrafted players and guys on the fringes of the NBA.

Since the coaching staff won’t be able to have any contact with Markieff once the lockout begins, the mini-camp will be important to start teaching him NBA concepts that he can work on this summer.

Via Paul Coro, the mini-camp also is being attended by former Boston College standout Sean Williams, Louisville point guard Edgar Sosa and Temple forward Dionte Christmas. Williams, a former first-rounder, played in the D-League last season while the latter two took their talents overseas.

The workout also includes undrafted free agents such as Butler hero Matt Howard (who visited during a pre-draft workout), Ohio State’s David Lighty, Washington’s Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Tulsa’s Justin Hurtt and Colorado’s Cory Higgins, according to Coro.

I would love to see the Suns give Howard a chance. He doesn’t possess prototypical NBA size, but with his intangibles, motor, heady play and skill level for a big he seems like the kind of undrafted player who could one day make a rotation as an energy guy off the bench.

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