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5-on-5: Who is the Suns' Most Improved Player?

In the second edition of our 5-on-5 to recap the season, the Valley of the Suns crew wonders if we can lock down the most improved player on the Phoenix Suns. It’s a matter of opinion and semantics. In other words, it’s not as easy as picking the NBA’s Most Improved Player, Goran Dragic — although that isn’t wrong either.

Who is the most improved player on the Suns? Is it still Goran Dragic?

Kevin Zimmerman: I thought the assessment that Goran Dragic took dramatic steps forward from last season was a tad bit overblown — I thought he was pretty good considering his situation — though his jump shot certainly took his game to another level. The same could be said for P.J. Tucker, and Gerald Green certainly thrived without restrictions on him. But the most telling improvements came from Markieff Morris, who showed little development through two NBA seasons. It helped him become a post anchor that he went from shooting threes 21 percent of the time last season to just 13 percent this year. As many holes there are to patch in his game, he also took major strides defensively.

[RELATED: An efficient Markieff Morris shines thanks to the Suns' development staff]

Ryan Weisert: There is a difference between improvement and opportunity. Several members of the Suns’ roster flourished this season because of increased opportunity, but no Sun improved more than Markieff Morris. The stats say he increased his PER by nearly six points. In just four more minutes per game, Kieff increased his scoring by 5.6 points, improved his FG% from just under 41% to over 48%, and more than doubled his free throw attempts. But beyond the box score, Kieff became the player Phoenix hoped he could be. His shot selection was light years better. He knocked down mid-range jumpers and got to the basket. His interplay with his brother Marcus made them both better players, as promised. Dragic certainly deserved the MIP trophy, but Markieff is unequivocally the Suns’ most improved.

Michael Schwartz: At different points in the year, it was different players. Plumlee was running away with this award at the start, and Gerald Green deserved it for the way he finished the year. Bledsoe flashed some MIP worthiness when healthy, although that’s largely because it was the first time he played starter’s minutes. But for consistency the whole year and for going from good to great, Dragic is still the most improved player.

Dave Dulberg: The easy response would be to say Dragic, after all he won the award for the entire league and improved in almost every statistical category despite just playing a shade over one minute more per game than he did in 2012-13. But what made this team so enjoyable to watch was the progress almost every rotation player made throughout the year — albeit at different times. In any given span, the title of most improved could have gone to Eric Bledsoe, Gerald Green, Markieff Morris, Miles Plumlee or P.J. Tucker. That’s saying something.

Jeff Sanders: It really is hard to pick one guy as the most improved player because every player on this team got better. Goran Dragic took his game to the next level and is a small babystep away from being a superstar. Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee were both afterthoughts in the Luis Scola trade with the Indiana Pacers, but can you imagine the team having the success they did without either of the two? Markieff Morris became one of the best big men off the bench, even earning himself a Player of the Week award in November. You also can’t forget about a guy like Ish Smith. Not many knew who he was when the season tipped off; now he is known as Ricky Bobby.

  • NOitall

    How about who needs to improve the most in order for the Suns to get to the next level…

    Barring trades and draftees, this team needs to assess a few individuals as to their future contributions compared to the contracts they have or will have.

    Here are the following [IMO] guys that need to step up for us:

    1. Markeiff Morris- Our biggest glaring need, other than to re-sign Bledsoe and Tucker, is a more viable big. Whether that be to supplant Frye or Plumlee makes no difference.

    The truth is that this team will not be a contender without a player that can score in the paint, get to the line frequently, defend the pick and roll and rebound. Plumlee could develop, but I don’t see that happening. He is a solid role playing defensive minded player that can occasionally finish, but he is limited and would probably be relegated to the bench if Len develops at all. Paired with a spread 4, Plumlee works fine in spurts.

    Frye was almost awful. He defends like an old man that never defended anyway, is relegated to shooting nothing but threes, and really wasn’t a factor when it mattered. He is a nice piece off the bench, but as a starter, he holds the Suns back.

    Morris should be the guy. He has a versatile game, still spreads the floor like Fyre, but needs to develop his aggression offensively in the paint. When he is aggressive and getting to the rim, he can be a beast and makes the Suns very tough to beat. Other than that, he also needs to establish improvement defensively, both guarding the p&r as well as doing a better job against the occasional post player that hurts us [Z-Bo]. He also needs to be a 10 rebound per night guy.

    If he could develop in those areas, we are in less need to trade for that guy. Morris needs to step up or we need to consider moving on from him and getting value back.

    2. Alex Len – On the same note, incremental improvement from Len would allow the Suns to focus on fine-tuning the rest of the squad without making additional major commitments at the C position. Granted, Len is young and will need more time, but we need to see him become a player that will not get a single DNP-CD. He needs to develop into a rotation player to show that he will eventually be our answer and put Plumlee on the bench [as our Lou Amundson]

    3. Gerald Green – “Huh?” you might ask. While it is true Green showed amazing improvement for a guy that was out of the league, it is equally true that he needs to step up even more. His Shannon Brown-like offensive explosions are certainly fun, but the Brown-like defensive lapses and overshooting are even more frustrating, especially considering Green’s length and occasional glimpses of defense [unlike Brown and his utter distaste for that end]. If Gerald Green could summon the consistent effort to be decent on the defensive end of the floor, he becomes a viable starting small forward to supplant PJ Tucker.

    If those three showed improvement in those areas, this would easily be a 4-5 seed, if not better, and a team that could beat anyone in a 7 game series.

  • EBJM

    I agree. Markieff has made the most significant improvements.

    Green had a similar season in New Jersey which led to him signing with the Pacers.

  • shazam

    if this discussion was just about vs. the lakers i would cast my vote for nash…he has done more over there to help us beat them than he ever did w/ us