It's been hard to keep up with the "is this player going to play overseas?" talk. Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant are among the star players who have been mentioned as considering this option, as well as the Suns' own Steve Nash and Marcin Gortat. The first 2011 draft pick of note who is reported to be in talks with an overseas team is the Suns' 1st round (#13 overall) draft pick Markieff Morris. According to Paul Coro, Morris' agent Tony Dutt is currently negotiating with Greek team Panathinaikos to play there during the NBA lockout.
Every player's situation is unique with regards to their basketball activities during the lockout. For an established veteran like Steve Nash, there is little progress to be expected in his game by playing in a professional league, and it would more likely only add miles to his odometer. It's a good thing he says he won't play overseas. Marcin Gortat could use more playing time in competitive basketball after his idle years as Dwight Howard's backup, but it looks like injury insurance problems will keep him home as well.
Markieff Morris is a different matter altogether. Like other 2011 draft picks, he's unsigned so doesn't have a contract that might be compromised by injury if he plays elsewhere. He's 21 years old and his body still has its best basketball in front of it. The lockout is keeping Morris from a.) summer league, b.) training camp and preseason and c.) getting paid. He deserves all of these things, and it will benefit the Suns if he gets that training, even if it's in Athens.
Jump it for free gyros!
In the same way that all player situations aren't created equally, neither are all overseas leagues and teams created equally. Panathinaikos is a successful team in the established Euroleague. They won the league title last year, and have a reputation as one of the league's consistently best teams. Their head coach, Serbian Zeljko Obradovic, has won eight Euroleague titles and is considered one of the best coaches in Europe.
For Morris to play there wouldn't be the same as playing in summer league and preseason for the Suns, but it would be an experience that would benefit the young player. The competition isn't NBA-level, but is superior to the Big 12 basketball Morris played last year. And, winners are winners. Exposing Morris to winners on a professional level can only help his development.
The risk of injury is always a consideration, but he could injure himself playing in pickup games or in one of the minor leagues in the US just as easily. The only way for Morris to improve at playing basketball is to do more of it. Since the options to play professionally are currently limited in the US, I welcome him going overseas to play with one of the better European teams.
A more important consideration is that Morris' agent is able to secure an "out clause" that allows him to leave the Greek team when the NBA lockout ends. Of course, if he's committed to playing there until their season ends next summer, we can write off his rookie year and that's a problem. Morris' agent is reportedly attempting to negotiate this out clause.
But let's assume Morris can get the out clause (or else doesn't sign with them) and play with Panathinaikos until the lockout is settled. That would be a win for the Suns, and we could use one right now.