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?
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:
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:
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.