Phoenix Suns Summer League preview: Learning opportunity for Markieff Morris

Markieff Morris will headline the Phoenix Suns' Summer League team in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

Markieff Morris will headline the Phoenix Suns’ Summer League team in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

The NBA announced the schedule for the 2012 Las Vegas Summer League on Thursday. A record 24 of the league’s 30 franchises will field teams in this year’s exhibition. For the Phoenix Suns, this 10-day stretch in July will be the first step in a much-needed youth movement. At the center of that movement will be power forward Markieff Morris.

Because of the lockout, Morris and the rest of last year’s rookie class did not have a traditional offseason. The 2011 Summer League was the first casualty of the lockout but certainly not the last. Because the owners and player’s association took so long to reach an agreement, preseason training camp was massively compressed, and players who were new to the NBA had a true trial by fire.

This season will be different. For Morris, this offseason will provide a great opportunity to grow as a player and build on a solid rookie campaign.

This year Markieff showed flashes of being a strong contributor at the power forward position. He wasn’t afraid to shoot the ball. He battled on the glass. And perhaps most importantly, he never looked intimidated.

He consistently behaved as though he belonged on the court. Unfortunately, as is the case with most rookies, Morris’ first year was also marred by inconsistency. Summer League and a proper training camp should help Morris solidify his game and take it to the next level for the upcoming season.

Shooting tops Morris’ improvement list this offseason. Markieff connected on 34.7 percent of his 3-point attempts, which isn’t terrible for a first-year player. He hit just under 40 percent of his total field goal attempts, however, and that figure is nowhere near good enough. His ability to shoot from outside makes him a versatile offensive player, but he must get much more aggressive and efficient in the post and midrange.

With long arms and a big body, Morris has the physical traits to be tough matchup for most NBA power forwards — especially when paired with center Marcin Gortat. Morris just needs practice and repetition to gain the scoring confidence necessary to be a true inside-outside threat. Other areas for improvement include defensive awareness and conditioning. Morris played just under 20 minutes per game this year. If he wants a bigger role on the team next season, he’ll have to earn it.

Whether it’s this season or one in the near future, the Steve Nash era in Phoenix is ending. This is the time for new players to step up and assert themselves as valuable members of the team. For Markieff and the Suns’ eventual first-round draft pick, the time to prove themselves is now.

The Summer League team will be coached by Suns’ Assistant Dan Majerle. The rest of the roster is still up in the air, but fan favorite Zabian Dowdell could make a return. The games will be played July 13-22, and all 60 will be shown on NBA TV. Here is the Suns’ schedule:

Sunday July 15 – New York vs. Phoenix, 1 p.m.

Tuesday July 17 – Cleveland vs. Phoenix, 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday July 18 – New Orleans vs. Phoenix, 5:30 p.m.

Friday July 20 – NBA D-League vs. Phoenix, 7 p.m.

Saturday July 21 – Memphis vs. Phoenix, 7 p.m.

Tags: Markieff Morris Nba Summer League Phoenix Suns

  • Tony

    Morris is not going to be anything other than what he was projected to be, a solid role player. He’s not athletic enough to compensate for being undersized. Hopefully he can use this off-season to also work on speed and jumping ability. Furthermore, most of his success was in the beginning of the season, in which most teams’ didn’t know how to defend him.
    This is not to say that Morris won’t turn out to be a good pick, but expectations for him should be very low.

  • Ronson

    Loving the optimism Tony. Surely sports is one area in life where we are allowed to dream a little?

  • Cam

    @Tony: I know a few people have said it before but I don’t see why markieff can’t turn into a boozer type of player. He has the same type of skill set, athleticism, and body type. If that’s his ceiling I think the Suns FO and fans would be happy with that. Don’t be so quick to be negative on a player who is only in his second year of a rookie contract. Go Suns.

  • Bill-in-Tokyo

    Markieff will be a lot better than he played this year; he makes Phoenix better. From what I’ve seen he will surprise a lot of people with his skill set.
    What is super interesting in this post is Weisert’s indirect dig on Frye. If Markieff pairs with Gortat, whom do you leave out of the starting 5?
    Notice also todays Coro’s article on draft work outs heavy with PF’s. ……..?!?

  • Nick

    Bill-in-Tokyo, I think that might’ve been because Frye may still be injured once the new season comes along. Therefore Morris may start.

  • Matt

    Dude you have no idea what your talking about last time I checked, 6’10 245 LBs is pretty damn good size for a NBA 4. And Morris has already proven to be a good rebounder, good shooter, and actually has a decent low post(Even though for reason they always went to Lopez more often than him never understood why). And he’s plenty athletic, he’s so Amare or Ibaka but he’s not Carlos Boozer neither. And if the Suns trade away Frye, Morris has somewhat of a LaMarcus Aldridge ceiling.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    There’s a very important aspect being overlooked in regards to Morris’ potential. That aspect being the system he plays in.

    Now he can be compared to all sorts of 4s in the league but he’s going to be used in a different way when you compare him to just about any other big.

    I’m not really sure how much back-to-the-basket stuff is going to come his way in Gentry’s system. If it’s along the lines of what Frye normally got since Amare departed then I wouldn’t be shocked if he doesn’t develop that very much.

    I don’t know how much better he’ll get at shooting the 3, but he needs to develop that elbow / baseline 15-foot jumper. He needs to refine his ability to seal on the screen and also improve his footwork diving towards the hoop off the screen from anywhere on the floor.

    If he does those things, in Gentry’s system, he’ll be an absolute beast in his second year. He already has a nose for rebounds and with the work put in he’ll get stronger.

    Priority 1: Mid-range Jump shot. It is CRITICAL for him.

    Priority 2: Screen / Dive work.

    That’s all I want to see in summer league from him. tons of great screens, dives off those screens or flare-outs off of those screens that result in made 13-17 foot jumpers.

  • zachi

    Brandon Roy says he is planning on a come back… another project for the warlock…and a top all star player for the suns he cant sign at Portland

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    Warlocks can do a lot of things. I’m not sure they can re-create knee cartilage though.

  • steve

    In what world is 6’10″ 240 “undersized” at the 4?

    I’m with cam on the boozer ceiling. I think that’s definitely on the hopeful side of things, and it will take a ton of work for markieff to reach that potential, but isn’t that what this article is trying to point out in the first place?

    If markieff puts in the time, he can possibly reach the status of being a #2 or #3 star on a good team. From what I’ve seen out of him, he appears to be a hard-working guy who will put in that time and stretch his abilities. I’m excited about his future.

  • Tony

    No way Morris is 6-10. He’s the same height as Landry who is 6-8.
    “If Markief puts in the time, he can possibly reach the status of being a #2…” In what world are you living in where Morris is a number 2 option? That’s one bad team if Morris is your number 2 option.

  • steve

    If you quote someone, you could at least use copy/paste. For one, it’s easier. Secondly, you wouldn’t misspell words that I never misspelled in the first place.

    The word “possibly” is what’s called a qualifier. It qualifies the statement, indicating there is a level of uncertainty involved with the claim the statement is making. I’m not certain Markieff is ever going to develop into a #2 option on a good team. In fact, I’m not even confident in that. But to say that’s “impossible” is as foolish as someone saying it WILL happen.

    I will never understand your unending desire to be such a pestilent downer.

  • Greg

    No current sports site, or draft site, has Morris at 6-8. He is atleast 6-9, with good length and a big nba body. He is a competitor, and with a full off-season ahead of him I expect him to improve. If and when he is logging 30+ minutes a night he realistically can score 14-16 a night and grab 8-10 rebounds, while being an effecient defender that can contribute over a block and a steal a night. The #13 spot has produced 14 all-star appearances in the last 20 years, all of those belonging to Kobe. To say Morris will be an all-star isn’t a high possibility, but he will play a key role in the Suns rebuilding process.

  • Tony

    If you’re going to be an arrogant goober, at least be creative. So I misspelled Morris’s name but at least I didn’t refrain from following elementary level grammer in forgetting to capitalize a person’s name!


    it’s very common NBA practice to exaggerate players’ height. Morris is not 6-10. He’s 6-9 tops. With that being said I’m not trying to just “hate” on Morris, but rather, I’m just being realistic. The guy was never projected to be an allstar and although he showed flashes of being better than just a reserve, he doesn’t do anything exceptionally well.

  • steve

    My phone doesn’t auto-capitalize in wordpress text input boxes, and I’m too lazy to hit the “shift” key. Sue me.

  • Scott

    At the 2011 Combine, Markieff Morris was measured at 6′ 7.75″ without shoes, and 6′ 9.25″ with shoes.

    Based on that, I’d call him 6′ 9″ too, and that’s how he’s listed on Draft Express.

    (BTW, he’s nearly an inch taller than his twin.)

  • Greg

    @ Tony, when did i say he is is 6-10? I said he is atleast 6-9, because the draft combine measures said he was, and those aren’t exagerrated. I never said he was projected to be an all-star and i never said he does anything exceptionally well. I said if he gets 30 mins a night we could realistically see a 15 point 9 board a night type player. I said due to the fact Kobe is the only player in the last 20 drafts to make the all star team from the #13 slot in the draft, the chances of Morris being an all-star aren’t high. With an improved mid range game and efficiency from 3, he could become a dangerous scorer.

  • Cdubbbb

    I think Morris has a fairly high ceiling. Rasheed Wallace is such a good comparison to Morris as far as how they play and their skillset, yet Morris doesnt seem to be mentally unstable like Sheed. If Morris has the hunger to be great and puts in the time, hard work, and dedication, he has all the talent and skills to do so.

    I could see him averaging 18 and 10 with good defense and a mean streak, IF he works hard.

    A Boozer/Sheed type career is a pretty realistic goal for him IMO