It doesn’t take advanced stats to tell you how well Markieff Morris has played during the first five games of his pro career, yet they are saying it loud and clear nonetheless.
No matter which advanced stat you prefer most, it is likely saying very good things about the former Jayhawk.
Before jumping headfirst into the numbers, let me offer you the obligatory caution regarding small sample sizes. Nobody is saying Markieff should start prepping his Hall-of-Fame speech, this is merely to point out how spectacular he really has been through five games.
Starting in the land of plus/minus, Morris leads the team with a plus 31.61 adjusted plus/minus rating, according to Basketball Value. The next best Sun is Grant Hill at 16.79, while Jared Dudley brings up the caboose with a minus 45.59, as he still hasn’t recovered from his minus 32 in 24 minutes against Philadelphia.
The Suns have outscored the opposition by about 13 points per 100 possessions with Morris on the floor, but they have been outscored by about 12 per 100 when he sits.
According to plus/minus, Morris has made his biggest impact on the offensive end of the floor, as the Suns boast an impressive offensive rating of 114.29 with him on the court but just a 90.67 offensive rating when he sits.
Defensively, the Suns are slightly better (101.08 to 102.99) when Morris is in action.
Before getting too carried away with this, keep in mind how much the starters struggled in the Philly game as that certainly weighs heavily in a sample size such as this one. Nonetheless through five games the Suns’ offensive troubles have largely vanished with Morris in the game.
During this time Morris has produced the third-best PER among rookies at 22.24 (trailing Jon Leuer and MarShon Brooks). His 69.0 true shooting percentage ranks seconds among rookies to Leuer and leads all Suns; Robin Lopez ranks second on Phoenix all the way down at 57.1 percent.
Morris also ranks fifth among rookies in defensive rebound rate (21.7) and second on the Suns behind Channing Frye, who has hit the glass hard to the tune of a 33.8 DRR in the early going. Morris’ overall 14.4 rebound rate ranks sixth among rookies and second on Phoenix behind Frye as well.
Synergy is a fan of the Suns’ rookie as well. Morris has scored 1.24 points per play to rank eighth in the league (Phoenix has scored 0.9 ppp as a team by contrast), and he rates very well in both spot-up shooting (1.33 ppp) and post offense (1.25), both in 12 attempts. Sebastian Pruiti, who ranked Morris sixth in his weekly rookie rankings at Grantland, wrote that this puts Morris in the top six percent of NBA players in terms of post offense.
The Suns’ rookie has been perhaps most impressive in terms of Wins Produced, as according to NBA Geek he boasts a .296 WP48 and has already produced 0.6 wins for Phoenix, second among rookies behind Ricky Rubio.
To put the .296 in perspective, the only players to log over 500 minutes last season and reach that lofty mark were Kevin Love, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, with LeBron James falling just below it.
For the traditionalists, per 48 minutes Morris is averaging 22.6 points and 13.0 rebounds per game.
All of this is just to say Morris has played extremely well to begin his NBA career. It’s impossible to make any long-term judgments based off a five-game sample, even if it seems like the Suns finally selected the right brother.
However, Morris has far surpassed any reasonable expectations thus far, and if he continues to develop the Suns will have finally found their power forward of the future.
Gentry on Morris after Monday’s game: “I think he can be a good defender, I think he can be an excellent rebounder. He’s a real intelligent player, especially for a rookie. All in all I think he’s just a real smart player. I think he’s got some toughness and he’ll rebound the basketball, he’ll go pursue the ball, so I’ve been happy with that, but he’s still a rookie and he’s still going to make mistakes and we’re still going to have to put him out there in situations and he’s going to learn from them. The only way you get better and the only way you have experience is you have to go out and play.”
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