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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Markieff Morris could be top KU product in NBA

Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris (11) drives against New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday, left, during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014, in New Orleans. The Pelicans won 110-106.

Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris (11) drives against New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday, left, during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014, in New Orleans. The Pelicans won 110-106.

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Paul Pierce’s career is winding down. Andrew Wiggins has only just arrived on the scene. So right now, in a window that could close before long, Markieff Morris might be the best former Kansas University basketball player in the NBA.

As a key member of the Wizards, one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, it’s possible Pierce will prove more relevant this season.

Without a doubt, Wiggins will create more buzz in Minnesota, on his way to what figures to be a Rookie of the Year campaign.

Still, Morris produces more for Phoenix than any Jayhawk in the league does for his respective team, and the fourth-year forward has established himself as an integral piece for the Suns — 18-16 and a legitimate playoff contender in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

A 6-foot-10 stretch power forward, Morris scored 25 points and went 10-for-17 in the Suns’ 137-134 overtime loss on New Year’s Eve in Oklahoma City.

For the first time in his young career, he is an every-day starter. Accordingly, Morris could set career-highs in points (currently at 14.9 per game), rebounds (5.9), assists (2.1), steals (1.3) and free-throw percentage (.821).

Though the Suns’ offense revolves around three quick guards, Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas, Morris provides Phoenix with an effective post presence, while also not limiting himself to playing on the blocks. Entering Wednesday, Morris had shot 71-for-115 from less than five feet, 26-for-52 from five to nine feet, 44-for-81 from 10 to 14 feet and 32-for-74 from 15 to 19 feet (from stats.nba.com). Behind the three-point line, Morris had connected on 23 of 78 attempts, while scoring 40.3 percent of his overall points in the paint.

The versatile big told Paul Coro of azcentral.com he tries to adapt his approach to each game’s unique flow.

“The guards have done a great job of penetrating and I’m just trying to stay near the three-point line and offensive rebound more and try to knock in shots,” Morris said. “If I’m having success when I’m posting, I just keep attacking.”

There is more to his effectiveness than his scoring, too. Coro wrote that Phoenix, through Dec. 24, had outscored opponents (per 100 possessions) 108.8-101 when Morris was on the floor. The 25-year-old forward said he spent the offseason working on every facet of his game.

“I think I got better on and off the ball,” Morris said. “Taking charges, getting loose balls and all the small stuff.”

According to hoopsmanifesto.com, Morris’ 10 charges drawn tied him with Luis Scola for fifth in the NBA through games played on Dec. 25.

“He’s doing everything,” Dragic told azcentral.com. “We were watching tape from the last game in Dallas, and he was defending great. He was great defensively on Dirk (Nowitzki), and he gives us that offense we need under the basket. He’s a big key for our success.”

His twin brother Marcus won’t challenge Markieff for best KU player in the NBA, but he’s helping in Phoenix, too — 9.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 40.6-percent three-point shooting. Just last week, Marcus went 6-for-7 from three-point range and scored 20 points off the bench in a Suns win over Sacramento. That same night, Markieff hit 8 of 11 shots and scored 17.

The duo signed contract extensions with the Suns before the season began. Phoenix’s management told the twins it had $52 million to offer and let the brothers split the money between them. Marcus explained why he took $5 million a year and Markieff got $8 million annually in a feature by Jeff Allen for RollingStone.com.

“Keef played really well last year. Coming off the bench he was a potential Sixth Man of the Year candidate. So I think he deserved for his number to be higher than mine,” Marcus said. “He’s one of the great power forwards in the league. If he was by himself he would’ve gotten way more than that. I just wanted personally for his number to be higher.

“We look at it as a number for the household, you know?” Marcus added. “Thirteen million (dollars) a year for our family. Whatever it broke it down to, we didn’t really care.”

The Morris twins are under contract through 2018. By then, who knows whether Markieff, Wiggins or someone else — Joel Embiid? — will be the best Kansas player in the league.

Comments

Dale Kroening 5 years, 4 months ago

No mention of Ben in Sacramento ?? He's starting for the Kings averaging 12.1 ppg - 3.3 rpg - 1.4 apg - FG: .476 3pt: .397 ~ Not as good as Keefs numbers , but having a decent season none the less. Good to see the Hawks in the NBA making some noise. Cole is starting for the Knicks too and has been impressive also . Rock Chalk !!!!

Steve Zimmerman 5 years, 4 months ago

It's nice to see Cole getting some PT, isn't it?

TRob had a couple of big plays but I really hope to see him taking off more consistently just like the Morris bros.

Aaron Paisley 5 years, 4 months ago

I don't disagree with this. Markieff is the best current Jayhawk in the league right now. Probably won't be the case after this year because Wiggins and McLemore will each surpass Markieff in the next couple of seasons.

Tony Bandle 5 years, 4 months ago

Oakville Oddities:

1] Happy New Year, everyone...yes, even you, Hot Rod.

2] Interesting how Markieff was always in Marcus' shadow but has now emerged as the superior player. It reminds me of me and my four brothers and how much better they have all become!!

3] Rodney, you caught me at a bad moment..my apologies for the post, although the "Agent Provcatuer" thing was a compliment...honest!! [Hot Rod does sound cool, however].

4] Counting UNLV as a victory[ no sure thing], this young squad will go 11-2 into the conference.

5] I foresee big trouble at Baylor, Iowa State and Texas for sure with possible splits with West Virginia and Oklahoma. I think we can take TT, Okie State, TCU and KSU thus ending up 13-5. With the Big 12 so competitive, that may be good enough for at least a tie for the crown...we'll see.

6] Bill looked like he was going to puke when Tyler went in for that layup!!! :)

Rodney Crain 5 years, 4 months ago

1 and 3 - Thanks Tony. I also appologize. I get upset with some people on here and you got caught in the dust up. Sorry about that. I like Hot Rod too, I think it is funny they think that is derogatory.

4 and 5 I agree 100%

6 LOL I scared my dog by yelling at the tv " take your time, take your time you can't miss this" I was so glad he made it. I like all our walk ons and to get a free layup was icing on the cake that night.

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