Markieff Morris Brings Balance to the 2011-2012 Phoenix Suns Frontcourt

Kansas forward Markieff Morris dunks during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Colorado in Boulder, Colo., on Wednesday,  Feb. 3, 2010. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

With the 13th overall pick in this year's NBA draft, the Phoenix Suns selected standout Kansas forward Markieff Morris. Not the first, not the second, but the third NBA brother (and second NBA twin) to join the Suns, Morris was drafted to help bring depth to the position vacated by Amar'e Stoudemire a year earlier.

Morris has yet to set foot on the court, in practice or otherwise, as a Phoenix Sun, but that won't stop me from speculating about what his potential impact will be this season and beyond.

  • Finishing Ability: As a Jayhawk, Morris was known as an excellent pick-and-roll finisher, converting almost 70% of his touches at the rim last year. He's been working on improving his back-to-the-basket moves, but is known primarily as an attacker. The Suns like the pick and roll. Steve Nash likes the pick and roll. I like the pick and roll. It's all good.
  • Rebounding Skill: Steadily improving throughout his 3-year collegiate career, he averaged 8.3 rebounds last year and improved his rebounding rate in each year. Alvin Gentry can expect a guy willing and able to attack the boards when Markieff's name gets called. I don't think we're in for another Taylor Griffin experience in this category, but one thing Morris will need to do is stay in the weight room. He's not a huge body in the paint but he has good footwork.
Those two attributes aren't qualities that I would pin on Channing Frye, the current starter at the PF spot. Channing has a uniqueness among NBA forwards in that he has the silky smooth, reliable 3-pointer stroke that allows him to stretch the floor. Over the last year or so, Frye has been improving in areas such as post defense and rebounding, but his bread and butter is the pick-and-pop with Nash.

Join me after the jump for a little bit more....

Markieff Morris is just what the Phoenix Suns need to bring increased balance to the frontcourt. Channing Frye will continue to be a matchup nightmare for any team and I expect him to continue starting at the 4 as long as the shot remains silky smooth. The really cool part, though, comes when Morris is inserted into the lineup. Able to hold his own in the paint, Markieff will develop into a hard-nosed defender and aggressive slasher when that's what's needed.

So, what should we watch for this season with Markieff? Watch for aggressive weak-wide rebounding and good defense inside 15 feet. Watch for the pick-and-roll (hopefully a more controlled version of the Hakim Warrick p&r), with both Steve Nash and Sebastian Telfair running the point. Watch for a new mid-range jumpshot that he's been working on that he started to develop last year.

I would dare say that Morris will be perfect fit for the Phoenix Suns' second unit this year. It would take Channing Frye losing his edge for Morris to bust into the starting lineup, but I'll look for him to get 13-18 minutes out of the gate, complementing Channing's outside shooting with his own brand of mix-it-up-in-the-paint basketball.


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