So far, the Phoenix Suns have to be pleased with what they’ve seen out of their first round investment in Markieff Morris, the former basketball star of the Kansas Jayhawks. The 6-10 forward is averaging 7.2 points and 5 rebounds for the Suns while shooting at a nearly 50 percent clip from three-point range. That’s a solid rookie weapon off of the bench and it shows how his well-rounded game has translated to the pro level.
David Thorpe has Morris as his No. 12 rookie at this point in the NBA season with his Rookie Report. He writes:
My concern with Morris was never his talent, only his desire to be great. So far it’s clear he wants to be a good pro, so he’s competing hard. Thus his skills are evident to everyone. Morris came into the league as a shooter with bite, meaning he is someone who can stretch the floor on offense but also someone who will rebound, defend, set screens and play with toughness. There are not many guys like this in the NBA.
He has made more than half of his 3-point shots (14-for-24) and already has four games with nine or more rebounds. Even though he played just 16 minutes against the Lakers on Tuesday, he had four steals — the mark of someone who’s not just going to let bigger guys beat him up inside. It’s early, but I already see at least four teams that would have been better off drafting Morris back in June.
Marcus Morris says he isn’t one. Draft analysts don’t believe he can be the other. Thus the uber-talented Kansas forward has become saddled with what is known as the “tweener” label, and it’s something that definitely hurt Morris’ draft stock as he fell to the No. 14 overall selection in the 2011 NBA Draft, landing with the Houston Rockets. Now, Morris will likely have a chip on his shoulder as he sets out to prove he can adequately play the three-spot.
Chad Ford says this is the reason his brother, Markieff, was taken one pick higher than him even though the numbers and scouting reports didn’t even have the brothers similar in overall talent. As Ford writes, “People laughed when NBA scouts said in February that Markieff could go ahead of his twin brother. As the draft got closer, scouts got comfortable that Markieff has a position, while they aren’t sure Marcus does.”
If Morris can fill that small forward spot, he will team with Chase Budinger and maybe Terrence Williams to round out the wing. Morris can certainly play out on the wing as his shot extends to three-point range. However, Morris has a very well-rounded game as he can score from anywhere and rebound well. He’s also a good defender and comes from a great program. In other words, the Rockets should be pleased even if Morris isn’t a 40-minute starter at small forward.