Name: Markieff Morris
Size: 6’10″/245 lbs
Position: Power Forward
NBA Experience: Rookie
If you’ve been reading my tweets you will notice that there I two things I almost always do when someone mentions Markieff. The first one is noting that he’s one of the most NBA-ready rookies out there this year. The second is that the Suns have officially became the Home of the Lesser Twins™. Doesn’t that contradict itself? Nope. Markieff’s ceiling is pretty low, as opposed to his brother Marcus. Oh, and his NBA-readiness seems to be a bit off, at least thus far. Either way, while Marcus is sure to be better in a long run, the Suns drafted ‘kieff for the now, and that’s what you have to look at here.
Markieff comes out of Kansas averaging just over 13 points and 8 rebounds along with one block in his junior year. On paper, it looks mediocre, but as soon as you look at the shooting percentages (55/40/65) you know we have an efficient feller (granted, he struggles from the line) on our hands. Markieff can pick his spots, and has a nice shooting touch. The only problem (outlined VERY well by resident blogging robot Sebastian Pruiti on NBAPlaybook.com), Morris can’t really play the pick-and-roll that well. Granted, the Jayhawks didn’t have much in way of guards to run the pick and roll, but his pick and roll problem goes beyond the talent around him, extending into his willingness to go in and confidence. Luckily, with one of the best roll-man in the league in Marcin Gortat, the best pick-and-roll runner in Steve Nash, and other players with good understanding of the play (Telfair, Warrick) will surely help him. If you read Pruiti’s report (you totally should) you will also notice a note about his pick and roll defense…
Well now, that’s a big problem. Gortat is pretty good defending pick and rolls (0.77 Points Per Play) and hopefully, he’ll give some advice to Markieff. Whatever the case, I doubt Markieff will be weaker than Channing Frye who gave up 1.17 PPP when defending the pick-and-roll which is just outright terrible. What I’m saying here is that even though ‘kieff was terrible in college, he’ll still be better defensively than Frye.
When it comes to the positives, there’s a few things that come at ya. He’s efficient, he can stretch the floor, or get some post shots going. Essentially, he’ll do whatever it takes to make a good impact on offense, and that’s sure to increase his value as a sun. Should he get minutes over Hakim Warrick? Surely, but I think Alvin Gentry would be wise to do something he has been doing with Gortat and Lopez before promoting Gortat to the starting role, which was essentially trying to get the most out of the weaker of the two (Lopez) by giving him the start, and effectively, time with Steve Nash. Once it became apparent that Lopez wasn’t too keen on playing well (which hopefully changes this year), Gentry went away from the concept and let Gortat (who was already playing starters minutes) officially start. This would be different though, it wouldn’t be about getting as much as possible from the weaker player (Morris) but getting as much as possible from the better player (Frye). The plan is this, you start with a Nash-Dudley-Hill-Morris-Gortat line-up, and you give Morris 5-8 minutes to start (depending on his play) off the quarter. After that, you bring in Frye, and extend the extra 5 minutes into some time with the bench unit. If Frye is winded at any time, you give limited time to Hakim Warrick so he can catch a breath and get back to the starters to close-out the half. If he’s feeling fine, let him play. Second half, repeat the act.
This would allow the Suns to use Markieff as an offensive rebounder alongside Gortat (if Gortat can get some relief on the offensive glass, he’ll go back to being the beast he was on Orlando’s offensive glass) and add some extra defence to the high-powered Suns offensive-minded starting lineup. He might not stretch the floor as much as Frye did, but he will get some easy looks from Nash and co, which should help his confidence, all while Frye takes his shooting skills (and much more) to the bench unit that is challenged in that regard, much more so than in the defensive areas of the game. Of course, the halves are closed out with Frye on the roster, enabling the Suns to get some late-game distance. This experiment would surely be fun to see, and I hope Gentry uses a similar concept in one of the pre-season games with the Nuggets, a risk free environment of sorts.
So, what’s my final prediction for Morris? I won’t give you numbers here, since I’m not entirely sure what he’s going to show, but I’ll tell you this, he’s going to get 10+ minutes with a good rebounding rate and efficient scoring, and that’s just good enough for me.
This was the first in a series of Suns player profiles and previews. More to come soon.