While Phoenix Suns rookie PF Markieff Morris cannot and should not be compared to Amare Stoudemire for many reasons, we should all take a moment today to thank the Suns front office for recognizing a player who was better than his draft stock suggested by "reaching" for him at #13 overall.
Markieff Morris is the first Suns rookie to be picked for the the rookie/sophomore game, the Rising Stars Challenge on TNT tonight, since Amare 9 years ago. While Morris won't win ROY like Amare did, lets give him credit for being one of the top 9 rookies in the game this year. And remember, he was picked by NBA assistant coaches who know how to judge talent. Among his peers, he is 10th in points per game and 3rd in rebounding, blocks and 3-pt shooting %. And yet, those stats don't do him justice. He hustles, take charges, and plays with an attitude. His biggest problem is that he gets a lot of foul calls against him, which limits his time on the floor.
Let's go back to draft time, and see what the Suns front office and fans were thinking in June. Blanks hinted at picking a diamond-in-the-rough early on.
"There's probably a player at 13 that you might be able to get at 10 or 15 that could be just as good as a player drafted at five," Suns GM Lance Blanks said during draft workout season.
Markieff got on the Suns radar big-time when he battled Tristan Thompson in a pre-draft workout, the preview of which was written by a little-known but less-heralded blogger.
The final pairing is the biggest and most interesting. The Suns are desperately in need of a new Power Forward, and the two who figure to be most available at the 13 spot are battling each other on Monday in Phoenix - 6'9" Markieff Morris against 6'9" Tristan Thompson.
[Tristan] Thompson will body up against Markieff Morris who blossomed in his brother's shadow at Kansas, finishing his career as a guy works hard under the basket on defense and stretches the floor all the way to the 3-point line on offense. He is physically ready for the NBA but has probably already shown his entire skillset, whereas Thompson and Lawal are relative mounds of clay ready to be molded.
Morris has already shown flashes of a wider offensive repetoire than even his pre-draft videos show. He can hit a jump shot, but he's also shown flashes of driving to the hoop off the dribble and finishing on pick-and-rolls when called upon. His claim to fame, though, will likely always be on the defensive end. He is a tough one who will rebound and defend with the best of them one day.
I digress. Back to the pre-draft days.
Lastly #3 - Markieff? Really? I was pretty sure Marcus was the better twin... but maybe we are just destined to try a new lesser-twin each year until we eventually cut or trade them all.
This jaunt down memory lane is just getting started.
Even right before the draft, when the pick of Morris seemed a forgone conclusion, we couldn't wrap our minds around it.
My guess on order of faveness, considering only those who could be available:
Tristan Thompson - raw PF with great potential
Kemba Walker - leader, big-time scorer who could be overrated, and is dropping from top-5 lists as we speak
Bismack Biyombo - unknown, could be Wallace, could be pine-rider with 4 fouls every 4 minutes
Markieff Morris - could be a Drew Gooden, or a nothing - not loved enough by BSotS to even garner a preview article
Iman Shumpert - is he the next DJ Strawberry? Or a new mold of 6'6" PG?
This order is just my guess. I'm also guessing that the Suns expect the first 4 to be gone, which is why they floated the Morris/Shumpert conundrum yesterday.
When Markieff really was picked at #13 though, the love began to flow a bit. At least, from many of us.
Another positive I can find is his toughness. He's scrappy, get's excited after making big plays and he isn't afraid to speak his mind. From this article he's quoted on talking a little trash to the number 2 pick in this year's draft, Derrick Williams -
"I didn't think he was as good as advertised," Morris said. "He got the benefit of the calls from the ref and we had to guard him different. He definitely had a good game against us, because we couldn't guard him how we wanted to guard him, and that's what happened."
So when he hears that Williams is a lock to go in the top two, Morris said, "It's still surprises me. What he did to Duke, he wouldn't do that to me or my brother [Marcus]. I'm dead serious. He wouldn't. At all. He's good. But if we was to work out, I would go at him and I would be able to stop him more than people would expect, you know what I mean."
I like. We need some attitude. Some toughness.
Interestingly enough, Morris will be taking on #2 pick Derrick Williams in today's rookie/soph game and playing alongside #4 Tristan Thompson.
Funny that two of the biggest rookie surprises - Morris and Shumpert - were Lance Blanks' two highest rated picks at #13. Maybe the Suns FO can pick well in the draft for a while. That would be nice. Blanks gushed about Morris every chance he got. He seemed to know what he was talking about.
Hit the links above, and then pour through the June archives a bit to see how we all reacted to the drafting of yet another unheralded twin.