Markieff Morris’ toughness, rebounding, shooting make him a nice fit for team he ‘always wanted’ to play for

Markieff Morris will infuse the Suns with much-needed toughness.

PHOENIX — Markieff Morris’ draft night wish came true, and it had nothing to do with the supposedly lesser twin getting picked a spot ahead of his brother.

Instead it had everything to do with who was on the other end of the call that officially made him an NBA player.

“It didn’t really mean too much going ahead of my brother, but when I heard the Suns picking me I wanted to cry,” Morris said. “This was the place I’ve always wanted to be. It just felt so good.

“We both went to the team that we really wanted to be at, and it worked out perfect for us.”

The feeling was mutual with Morris being the top-ranked player on the Suns’ board when pick No. 13 rolled around due to the fact that he figures to be a perfect fit in Phoenix.

The one word that kept reoccurring during Thursday’s media sessions both with Morris and the Suns’ front office was a word that has seldom defined the franchise: toughness.

Coming from Philadelphia, Markeiff prides himself on the “T” word, and he even expressed a desire to wear No. 5 because of his love for Kevin Garnett had it not already been retired for another identical twin, Dick Van Arsdale.

Marcin Gortat was so excited for Phoenix to add another guy to share the dirty with him he texted Blanks throughout the night on the topic.

“Great pick suns!! We need power and rebounds! Cant wait to see that boy playing,” Gortat tweeted.

“He’s tough,” Blanks said. “We have a team that is resilient, but he offers us a mental and physical toughness that’s almost impossible to quantify with numbers. He’ll be able to balance out our front line, and he’ll offer us a toughness that is much needed here.”

Added Morris: “My toughness comes from just being from Philly. Philly guys are the toughest guys you have probably ever met. That’s what I hang my hat on. I’m a tough guy. I’m ready to battle with anybody.”

That toughness is a big reason why Morris is a superb defensive rebounder. He led the Big 12 in rebounds per game (8.3) and ranked third in defensive rebound rate (24.4).

This is very positive considering rebounding often translates to the pros, and the Suns ranked third to last in defensive rebound rate and second to last in overall rebound rate last season. They most definitely will improve with Morris joining Gortat as solid board men.

On the topic of advanced stats, Morris led the Big 12 and ranked 10th in the nation in college PER with a rating of 29.74. According to StatSheet, he also excelled in true shooting percentage, knocking down 61.1 percent two years ago and 64.1 percent last year when he ranked second in the Big 12 (while leading the conference in field-goal percentage at 58.9 percent).

He also was second among draft-eligible power forwards in Position Adjusted Win Score per 40 minutes at 13.5. On the flip side, Markieff was horrid on John Hollinger’s Draft Rater, scoring a 10.03 that typically puts players in a career backup range.

Along with that interior presence, Morris can also be considered a spacer after nailing 42.4 percent of his 59 three-point field goals last season. Nobody will confuse him with Channing Frye from distance, but his shot can keep defenses honest. For a team that relies so much on spacing, Morris’ NBA range is another reason he’s a solid fit.

Morris also expressed a desire to play the pick-and-roll game with Steve Nash, noting how good Two Time often makes his big men look by simply setting a hard screen and rolling to the basket.

When Nash finds Markieff and whips a pass to him through traffic the Kansas product figures to often make the catch having grown up playing wide receiver.

Morris dreamed of catching touchdown passes like Michael Irvin rather than bounce passes from Steve Nash, but in 10th grade his mother told the now 6-foot-10, 240-pounder he was too big to play football so he took up basketball.

That decision turned out OK for Morris, as you don’t often see receivers that large flying around a football field.

Still, he has maintained that football toughness and now has a new player to emulate as he embarks on his pro career.

“Rasheed Wallace,” Markieff said, “without the attitude.”

Markieff unplugged

  • On what he brings: “Being that guy that will get down in the trenches and being able to do anything for the team. I’ve always been that guy.”
  • On his visit to Phoenix: “I liked everything about it. It’s a great city. I met with the coach and organization and kind of fell in love with those guys.”
  • On his current goals: “Just get stronger, get quicker, be in great shape to play with Steve and that up-tempo style.”
  • On playing without his twin: “It’s going to be different, but I’ll get on my own. I have a new family with the Phoenix Suns, and I have new teammates that will be close to me. I’ll be ready for the first step.”
  • On how he improved his jumper: “Just getting in the gym, getting my reps up. I kind of changed my form a little bit so I could have a high-arcing shot [that is] more direct. It certainly helped me with my shot and I definitely made more.”
  • On who wins 1-on-1 games between the Morris twins: “Probably me. I put him in the post a lot, back him down.”