Markieff Morris’ early dominance as seen by advanced stats

Markieff Morris has been an advanced stats terror through five games. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

Markieff Morris has been an advanced stats terror through five games. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

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.

And 1

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.”

Tags: Markieff Morris

  • sun-arc

    I sincerly hope he does keep developing- and quickly. But it’s possible he will be stagnant, at least for a while. Or that opposing defenses will catch up and single him out.

    But if he does improve, he could be a really solid PF starter for the future, which would be great. Then we’d likely have 2 positions really set (C & PF). If Redd and Dudz really work out at the 2, and Hak as a back-up 3, then we’d only have a couple of slots to fill next summer, which would make things so much easier.

    Plus, if our FO proves to be good at picking draft picks and scouting talent, we could be in for some very positive changes next summer.

  • steve

    Great write-up. A lot of interesting numbers. For instance, I’m surprised to see that Grant Hill has a positive adjusted +/-. I wouldn’t have guessed that.

    Markieff didn’t get nearly enough credit on the rookie rankings from Grantland. Rubio #1 is understandable (but I don’t necessarily agree with it). Norris Cole #2 is a joke. He has been good, but he’s nowhere near the production level of Markieff. The only reason he’s #2 on their list is because of his big moment and he’s on the Heat. That’s it. MarShon Brooks was #3, and while he’s definitely playing great so far, his numbers (outside of PER) don’t stack up to Markieff’s. Brandon Knight was listed at #4, and that’s the biggest joke of the list. It was purely based on his name and perceived potential. Kyrie Irving #5, possibly justified. He looks like a fantastic player at this point in time. Markieff was #6. Rubio and Irving are the only two players ranked above Markieff that are justifiable, in my opinion, but even still, if you look at just the numbers, I would wager that most people in a blind test would pick Morris’s numbers over any other rookie at this point in time. Hopefully Morris will keep up the good work and jump up in the rookie rankings next week.

  • MadhouseHoops

    I defended the pick in June, and I loudly applaud the pick today — MM is the right combination between the styles of Buck Williams and Rasheed Wallace. Just the type of player and toughness the Suns have needed since Barkley, unless we count ol’ man Kurt Thomas.

  • steve

    I should mention (as Rich did), I’m eating some major crow right now concerning Morris. I was very strongly against the pick, as I saw him as another serviceable bench player at best in the NBA. I was pushing for the likes of Tristan Thompson (I know he was gone before our pick came up) or Kawhi Leonard over Morris. We don’t know enough about any of these players to make definitive predictions about their career arcs, but I’d say Morris is a pretty safe bet at this point.

  • Scott

    @steve -

    Well, I’ve been for him from the start, but I still don’t see him as more than a talented role player. I don’t see him as a star, as his game is just too quiet for all that he gets done.

  • steve

    I don’t think he has superstar potential either, to be honest, but what I meant by “serviceable bench player” is something similar to Kurt Thomas. Kurt Thomas has consistently been an average NBA player by any metric you can find, and he has built himself a wonderful NBA career just by being consistent and solid. He’s the type of guy every team needs, but no one HAS TO HAVE. I thought Markieff was going to be that guy giving 8 points and 6 boards a night in 20 minutes as a journeyman in the NBA.

    After seeing him in action in the NBA now, I think his ceiling is much higher than that. I think he could be a Carlos Boozer, just a tier below the big dogs like KG (younger KG), Amare, Bosh, Dirk, Love, etc… whether he’ll get to his ceiling or not, no one knows, but I think he can be an 18/10 kind of player with very high efficiency, and that’s a lot more than what I meant by “serviceable bench player.”

  • Wilson

    Before anybody gets carried away, realize that Morris is assisted on 83.3% of his shots. 100% of his shots 10ft+ are assisted on and 83.3% of his shots are assisted at the rim. He has been good but that has to be a bit of a concern right now.

  • steve

    Wilson, where did you get that number? That’s a very interesting stat that I’ve never been able to find easily. I’d be curious to know that number for the rest of the Suns, as well.

  • Michael Schwartz

    We often get that stuff from our fellow TrueHoop Network blog HoopData: Wilson is dead on with those numbers but fails to mention that Morris has only been assisted on 33 percent of his shots between 3-9 feet and he’s hit 60 percent of those. Of course Morris will be assisted on jumpers and layups playing next to Steve Nash.

    The real answer to all this is that while it’s fun to look at Markieff’s early dominance — and really it’s stunning how well he’s doing — it’s really just a random sample of five games. If this wasn’t the first five games of his career we all might not even notice.

    What is encouraging on top of the hot start is how good Markieff’s advanced stats looked in college: He was an even better rebounder back at Kansas and while his TS% wasn’t this high he was among the Big 12 leaders with a TS% in the 60s. He also led the Big 12 in PER and ranked in the top 10 in college PER overall. The Wages of Win Journal projected him to be one of only six productive rookies with a 0.095 WP48 and on that front so far, so good.

    Again, too early to make predictions on whether Keef will come close to keeping this up, but through five games we can say the Suns’ rookie has been every bit the efficiency/rebounding monster he was in college.

  • Elviro (Italy)

    Great good numbers so far …. we all hope it continues like this: it is important for the future of the Suns!
    Steve, actually he’s right …. it looks a little even with Carlos Boozer
    I must see it to judge it in a full match highlights and site statistics are not enough to be able to compare to some players …
    After the game with the Spurs (which will transmit free in Italy) will tell you more ….. but for me it has great potential: depend on him to decide where to go!

  • Joe

    Difference between Morris and Boozer…Morris defends.

  • Lloyd I. Cadle

    I also liked the pick when the Suns drafted him. What could be better than a power forward that defends, rebounds, bangs underneath with the big guys, shots mid range and can shoot the three.

    I’m looking forward to seeing him play in person on Friday night.