Time for the Morris twins to step up


The NBA does not abide stagnation. Teams chase titles at all costs or dump their warp cores to bottom out. There is no in-between. The one place teams never want to be is stuck in the middle. The middle leads nowhere. It’s the one place in the NBA that’s entirely devoid of hope. In the middle, there’s no championship rings or franchise draft picks on the horizon. There are just eight seeds and shattered dreams.

Stagnation isn’t any more tolerated in players. The NBA is a “what have you done for me lately?” league. Much like the stock market, the NBA requires consistent growth and return on investment from its players. From the perspective of many GM’s, pundits, and fans, any player who is not improving might as well be declining. LeBron James excepted, a player who simply maintains his value from one season to the next isn’t really that valuable at all. This is especially true for young players. This is the problem the Morris twins face.

Markieff and Marcus Morris are decent NBA rotation players. They’re not valuable contributors on a contender but they aren’t a complete travesty either. They’re the definition of middle of the road (ESPN’s #NBARank had Markieff and Marcus at #247 and #262 respectively.)

Phoenix drafted Markieff Morris with the 13th pick in the draft two years ago. He had a solid rookie campaign with a few impressive highs and the expected rookie lows. He followed that season up with a stellar performance in the 2012 Las Vegas Summer League which got everyone a bit too excited about his progress. Then last season kicked off and Markieff showed no improvement. Surrounded by new faces on a team with no identity, the big man from Kansas looked lost. The hope from Summer League had vanished before Thanksgiving. But Phoenix didn’t give up on him. After a mountain of losses and a coaching change, the Suns acquired Marcus from the Rockets, in no small part because they believed that bringing the brothers together could unlock both of their potentials. The move didn’t pan out right away, but but that probably had more to do with the immense dark cloud that hovered over the Suns after Lindsey Hunter took over and Marcin Gortat went down with injury.

The 2013 Summer League was a glimmer of sunshine through the thick haze left over from the 2012-13 season however. The Morris twins along with rookie Archie Goodwin and human Swiss Army knife P.J. Tucker led the Suns to six straight wins before falling in the inaugural Summer League Final to Golden State. One or both of the twins was in double figures in every game of the tournament. Marcus led the team in scoring and three-point shooting. Markieff was second on the team in points and FG% and tied for first in rebounds. The first rule of NBA analysis is never to get excited about Summer League play, but at this point, I’m looking for anything positive when it comes to the Morris’s development.

Marcus’s impressive shooting, along with the return of Channing Frye, proved that the Suns should be able to really stretch the floor from the power forward spot this season. This will create more space in the paint for Gortat and the other bigs to operate. Likewise the threat of legitimate perimeter shooters will create more opportunities for Dragic and Bledsoe to get to the hoop.

Markieff showed much improved shot selection and rebounding tenacity in Vegas, two things that have really been lacking from his game thus far in his career. If the brothers can play inside-outside the way they did this summer, it should give coach Hornacek a great deal of offensive options and flexibility, especially in the half court. But if the twins cannot translate their Summer League performances to the regular season, they may end up fighting each other for limited minutes.

For better or worse, the Morris twins are most likely a package deal moving forward. Whether they remain with the Suns long term or move on to another team, I don’t see them splitting up. Neither one has really set himself apart from the other, and the general wisdom is still that they’ll be better together. That wisdom endures because these two have literally played basketball together their entire lives. We assume that much familiarity should lead to incredible chemistry on the court. We think because they’re twins they should be able to predict one another’s movements and throw back door alley-oops with their eyes closed. But that just isn’t the case. This isn’t hockey and they aren’t the Sedins. If one was a crafty point guard and the other an agile big man, they’d have a pick and roll for the ages, but unfortunately they’re both power forwards. There just aren’t going to be a lot of opportunities for these two to dazzle the crowd with their chemistry on the court. But off the court may be a different story. If having these two on the same team keeps them both more focused and happy, then more power to them. But if that focus doesn’t translate into more production, the Morris’s may be out of work before they hit restricted free agency.

Because they are still on rookie contracts, the twins’ 2014 options have to picked up or declined by October 31st. As of right now, there’s no indication the team intends to decline their options. While declining would free up some cap space, not having Marcus and Markieff under contract for 2014-15 makes them poorer trade assets this season. Next summer will be the real reckoning time for both players which makes this season a de facto contract year. The brothers have 82 games to show the Suns’ front office what they can do.

Whether or not they’ll take the next step as pros remains to be seen. What is clear is that with a successful Summer League campaign and a full training camp under their belts, the Morris twins have never been in a better situation to succeed.

Tags: Marcus Morris Markieff Morris Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Analysis

  • Steve

    Very nice analysis of Morri situation. I hope they can turn things in the positive if only for trade value. I’ve never been a fan of theirs, but as a fan of the Suns I’m stuck with them for now, hoping for tge best.

  • Foreveris2long

    Marquief’s biggest problem in my opinion is he cannot defend in the low post. Since Marcus seems to be a better scorer he can get quality minutes at the 3 spot. Like Steve above, I am not big fan of the Morris twins but I can live with them.

  • Michael

    Good analysis, however I expect Marcus to become a SF. That would enable them to play together, and I truly hope they can become a consistent and productive duo of our bench unit come season 2014/15.

  • JD

    The fact that Robin Lopez can succeed without his twin brother around makes him look like a superstar compared to the Morris twins.

  • DBrsezy

    I don’t see not picking up the twins’ options as making the, poor trade assets this season, if anything it makes them more attractive IMO. This isn’t the old NBA where teams always picked up all of their rookie options ‘just because’. It’s all about the market and flexibility.

    In general these days teams do not want multi year deals for anything other sure fire stars or top 5 players on their rosters. Players who are more productive and have proven more than the twins are often getting 1 year deals under the new cba, often for similar or less money than what the twins 4th year options will be.

    The whole point of the rookie scale system was to limit teams’ financial risks with young players with a secondary purpose of severely curtailing the career earnings of future stars, although the players have adjusted to that by coming out earlier. Thing is, what is the market for the twins as free agents? I highly doubt it’s even equal to what they’ll make on their 4th year options, so what’s the risk for the Suns in not picking up their options? Even if they had good years, I doubt they price themselves out of PHX if the team wants to keep them beyond this season. Any hard feelings about the options not being picked up can always be assuaged with a bigger deal if they do well-a deal that can be stretched if if their 2013-2014 performance turns out to be a fluke.

    As far as trade value goes, I’d be more interested in renting them for a year or so to see how things go if I was a prospective trade partner vs signing up for 2 years of players who have proven nothing in the league thus far. In recent years, more athletic and heralded prospects like JJ Hickson, Jordan Hill, and Thomas Robinson have all been in similar situations and they got moved into multiple rental situations.

    No need to rush the decision before the 31st, but at the moment I see no reason to pick up the twins’ options. At best they play better and you resign them, at worst you have cap space and two open roster spots in the search for starting caliber forwards here.

  • SHWAGGERT

    I like these two guys. I just don’t think either have been in situations where their teams are in beast mode. I think once the suns become a winning team again, you will see the morri chemistry come together and shine. Maybe not to Allstar status but def quality role players.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    Forever….Was that a “Freudian slip” in spelling Markieff’s name with a “French Twist” ? lol

    Meaning he is weak in the paint & would rather lollygag out at the 3 point line ?

  • Luka

    The Suns could move Gortat and Markieff Morris in a package. I’d like to see them get a younger PF in return.

    Anyone think we could get Jason Thompson from Sacramento? The Kings need a true center. They also might be willing to part with Thompson to free up some cap space. Does anyone think Thompson is worth trading for?

  • Scott

    I wouldn’t want the Suns to do trades just to have player movement.

    If the Suns don’t see a high quality PF they can trade for, then don’t worry about trading for one right now. Go with Markieff and cheap, short contract FAs.

    Trading is like the draft: trade for the highest quality players you can get, regardless of position. Look for the youngest, most talented player with the best intangibles.

    Jason Thompson, for example, is an average player (just less than 15 PER) who has 4 years to go on his contract and is 27. While he may be entering his peak playing years, he projects to be more of a quality role player and not really an ideal starter.

    He would provide a small boost to the Suns, but not enough to make a difference.

    The Suns need a starting quality PF, which frankly would be someone more talented than Frye (who also has a PER of nearly 15). Generally speaking, starters will have an above average PER. The Suns should be looking for someone with a PER of no less than 16, or a recently drafted player with potential who projects to mature at the same time Goodwin and Len do.

  • Ty-Sun

    The draft is a long time away but I think that the Suns should take a long, hard look at Julius Randle. All I keep hearing is “Wiggins, Wiggins, Wiggins!” but Randle might be the guy the Suns really need.

    The M&M twins at the very least should be quality bench/role players even if they never improve. I don’t see the Suns moving either of them this season unless it’s part of a bigger trade.

  • Scott

    I’m not sure the Suns will want either Wiggins or Randle. We need to see how the scouting progresses.

    I’ve read that Wiggins lacks killer instinct and consistent motor. The motor part could be due to youth, but I’m most concerned about the killer instinct part. The Suns need players with a highly competitive fire who want to win. Hard workers.

    Randle, I’ve read, has a body prone to be heavy, and his defense is below average. His wingspan is also average for his height (both at 6′ 10″).

    If scouts were all over Zeller for having a wingspan equal to his height (6′ 11″) – I still read, even from his own team’s fans about it – then why aren’t they also complaining about Randle, who is additionally overweight and who plays only on offense?

    So … I can see where there might be some hype in the player ratings that could settle out a bit by draft day.

  • Ty-Sun

    ESPN lists Randle’s height at 6’9″ with a wingspan of 6’11″ and his weight as 225. If their figures are correct, I’d be more worried about him being a little underweight to play PF in the NBA.

  • Scott

    DX has Randle at 6′ 9″ or 6′ 10″ in shoes (they quote both) with a 6′ 11″ wingspan, and 248 lbs.

    So his wingspan is an inch longer than I remembered.

  • Foreveris2long

    Hawk, Nah it was not intentional, I just cannot spell names correctly. However consistent with your theme, absolutely I think he is soft because he cannot defend the post and would rather do his work on the perimeter instead of the interior.

  • Sillmarillion
  • Michael Beasley

    Duuuude! I can’t believe that happened! I punched my face yo! I didn’t even feel nothin’ daaaamn! Maybe I’ll punch my head more often I gotta admit it was kinda fun!

  • Scott

    The Heat says the bruise actually came from contact with Jerebko. Beasley did hit himself in the head, but he was probably just joking with the press about the cause of the bruising.