It’s no surprise that Markieff Morris has been selected to the Rising Stars game, an extension of the Rookie-Sophomore format in which two teams, drafted from the pool of first and second year players by Shaq and Charles Barkley will face off against each other in a battle to the death no one will really give a damn about.
Yes, the game doesn’t really matter, and it won’t, unless someone pulls off an Jason Williamsesque elbow pass. What matters is the distinction, a nice little tribute to one of the best rookies out there. However it’s also a chance for us to take a step back and ask ourselves what ‘kieff really brought to the table.
Sebastian Pruiti of Grantland (also known as the Robot Writing Machine, but shhh) ranked Morris as the 9th rookie in his class in the fifth edition of his rookie rankings. Considering MarShon Brooks is injured, you gotta figure that this ranking comes with a (10) somewhere out there. And mind you, while 9 sounds nice, ‘kieff started off at number 6 and went as far up as number 4 in the second edition of the rankings before dropping. What happened? Pruiti cites bad defence, and it’s hard not to agree. Morris has been utterly terrible on that side of the ball, particularly in the post. Yes, his help defence is solid, and yes, the eye check tells us he’s better than Channing Frye at team defence, but unfortunately, his individual defence is just not up to par. Letting in 1.21 points per possession in the post? Eeek. Once again, Pruiti blames this on his size deficiency and tendency to foul, but I’d put a little bit of rookie shock into that. He’s just not used to people backing him down with ease, he seems shocked every time. I’d hope he asks Marcin Gortat to give him some of his time and teach him how to use your strength the right way on D.
Offensively, Markieff has been pretty good, but he does a tendency to make bonehead plays. Bad passing out of the post, forcing up jumpers instead of penetrating, ‘kieff really has to step it up in the Basketball IQ area on that end of the ball, because when it comes to just getting it done individually, he’s been doing a stellar job, especially from deep where he’s shooting a whopping 45%.
When the Suns drafted ‘kieff, I called him a rich man’s Channing Frye. I stand by that analysis, although he needs to step up his individual D and be smarter on O. These things come with time, as rookies become sophomores and adjust to the new systems and new opponents. Markieff may never be an All-Star, but I’m certain his ceiling might be even a bit higher than a better version of Channing. Right now however, he’s still one of the better rookies out there, and there’s no doubt he should be in that game, possibly even guarding Blake Griffin.