Phoenix Suns: Will Markieff Morris Become A Star?

The Phoenix Suns drafted Markieff Morris No. 13 overall in the 2011 NBA draft with visions of grandeur. Coming out of the University of Kansas, Morris appeared to be a smooth-shooting winner from a good program. His rookie year left a lot to be desired, while his sophomore season didn’t look much better. A closer look, however, tells a much different story. Could Morris be the Suns’ next star?

Markieff Morris

Morris gets some extra work in before a game in 2012-13. Photo Credit: Michael Dunlap, HoopsHabit.com

It appears as if the No. 13 was unlucky for the Suns, as they’ve watched Kawhi Leonard (No. 15), Nikola Vucevic (No. 16), Iman Shumpert (No. 17), Tobias Harris (No. 19), Kenneth Faried (No. 22) and Chandler Parsons (No. 38) all put up superior numbers in their first two seasons.

Among the 2011 rookie class, Morris ranks No. 12 in total points, No. 7 in total rebounds and No. 16 in total assists. Hardly sounds like a star. After all, Kyrie Irving was the prospect that got all the (deserved) hype at No. 1 overall.

Numbers may never lie, but they certainly don’t tell the whole story, either. Let’s take a closer look at Morris and how he fared as the 2012-13 season moved along. First, take a look at his season as a whole:

Season Tm G GS MP FG% 3P% FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2012-13 PHO 82 32 22.4 .407 .336 .732 1.6 3.2 4.8 1.3 0.9 0.8 1.3 2.5 8.2
Career 145 39 21.1 .404 .341 .725 1.4 3.3 4.7 1.2 0.8 0.7 1.2 2.7 7.8
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/22/2013.

Not exactly the stuff legends are made of. Now, let’s look at his last five games of the season, taking out the season finale in which he only played sparingly:

Rk Opp MP FG FGA 3P 3PA FT FTA ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
77 NOH 35:32 6 10 2 2 4 4 2 3 5 1 1 1 3 4 18
78 @ HOU 28:26 4 10 3 3 0 0 3 6 9 3 1 2 4 1 11
79 @ DAL 34:33 5 12 2 4 0 0 1 6 7 1 0 1 2 5 12
80 @ MIN 38:04 8 11 3 4 1 2 1 8 9 3 2 1 4 2 20
81 HOU 35:34 8 15 2 3 2 2 2 5 7 1 5 6 1 3 20
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/22/2013.

That’s a totally different player than the one who shot just less than 41 percent for the season. Morris gained confidence late in the year and finally began playing with hustle, heart and desire. He didn’t overdo it by taking 25 shots per game, either. He played within the offense and took quality shots.

Fast-forward to the 2013 Summer League in Las Vegas, Nevada. Morris has been instrumental in leading the Suns to a 6-0 record and a berth in the championship against the Golden State Warriors.

Morris’ game winner against the Miami Heat capped off a run in which he averaged 14.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.2 blocks in just 22.8 minutes per game over the span of six games. His field-goal percentage of 56.9 and his free-throw percentage of 88.2, if carried over into the regular season, would make Suns management do backflips.

We’re never going to confuse his game with Josh Smith or Andrei Kirilenko in their primes, but Morris has that ability to do a little bit of everything. His hustle on the defensive end to rotate and block a shot is impressive. His willingness to crash the glass and finish possessions is above average and his shot is far from broken.

Does that make him a superstar? No, not today. Is he heading in the right direction? Absolutely. Paired with Marcin Gortat, Caron Butler, Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, Morris can develop and contribute in ways he hasn’t before. Adding that kind of talent around him will only help. Don’t forget, he’s just 23 years old and will get the opportunity to shine during what will likely be another down year in the desert.

Topics: NBA, Phoenix Suns

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  • Jason

    Morris’s issue is that he doesn’t quite understand how he needs to play in order to be effective for the Suns. He spent far too much time watching the Nash-led Suns, and thus has fallen into the “stretch-4″ syndrome. While Morris certainly is capable of shooting it out to the 3 point line [although not as capable as making it - 34% career shooter], his penchant for floating on the perimeter is not what will make him a valuable rotation player, let alone a viable full-time starter.

    Funny you mention Josh Smith as some sort of higher level player. Like Josh Smith, Morris settles far too much for his inefficient long jumper. This tendency is why Morris struggles.

    Morris needs to recognize how he can provide value to this team. His value should come in a different way. ON the defensive end, he needs to get MUCH better. He is one of the worst defenders in the league, failing to guard pick-n-roll situations, failing to rotate within the defensive schemes, and failing to consistently rebound on that end. He is a liability on that end of the floor. In order for him to be starter quality, he either has to become more averagely consistent, or he needs to become a monster on the offensive end.

    On offense, Morris needs to eliminate shooting 3 pointers as a first or second option. Throwing one up when wide open – OK. But his offensive game should be from 15′ in, using his solid handles and ability to get in the lane to score, as well as posting up [either back-2-basket or faceups]. Morris needs to realize that he has the ability to get to the free throw line everytime he touches the ball, and that should be his mentality on offense.

    If Morris could become a go-to guy that gets to the line 8-10 times a game, and increases his effeciency on D to become at least average, then he has a chance to be a solid starter in this league. Otherwise, he is what he is – a soft, inefficient pick and pop player that plays no D.

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