Judging Morris based on his peers
Six of the nine players taken directly after Morris appear to have long, successful careers ahead of them while Morris is looking more and more like a squandered draft pick.
This doesn't even include players such as Jimmy Butler (#30 first round), who just had 21 points and 14 rebounds in the Bulls' game one win at Miami, or Chandler Parsons (#38 second round), who absolutely puts Markieff to shame. The 2011 NBA draft was actually rife with solid players middle first round and below. Many of these players project as, or already are, starters. There may even be some potential all-stars, such as Faried, from this group.
Can Markieff progress and catch some of his draft class? Possibly. But it doesn't bode well that he is the oldest player on the above chart...
This glaring example of the Suns' ineptitude with the draft isn't Markieff's fault, though, so maybe another metric would be more valuable in gauging his performance. Which means another chart. I like charts.
This one ranks Morris against all the other power forwards in the league. As this delineates, Morris is near the bottom of the league in shooting and win shares. Keep in mind that there are only 97 power forwards on the list, and many of them are garbage players temporarily filling roster spots while galumphing their way out of the league, so that makes those rankings pretty alarming.
What is also disconcerting is that Morris doesn't even possess the rebounding prowess of a backup power forward (top 60). This was supposed to be one of Markieff's biggest strengths, as rebounding tends to translate well from college to the pros. It hasn't translated. After averaging 12.3 rebounds per 36 at Kansas, Morris managed to to pull down just 7.8 last season. Oh snap...
To insert some rainbows and bumblebees into my largely scathing review, Morris does rank out fairly well in ancillary stats to those that are traditionally associated with a power forward. His steals, blocks, assists and three point shooting all grade out pretty well.
My analysis of this data leads me to believe that Morris needs a lot of improvement to even become a serviceable backup in the NBA.
Speaking of improvement...
Judging Morris based on his improvement
Do these numbers appear correlative? That's because they are almost imperceptibly different. It would probably be easier to make an argument that Markieff has regressed than that he has evolved as a player. I'll just propound that he has remained static; like a stone gargoyle, but much less imposing.
Which makes the improvement... nonexistent. In a year that one would hope a young player would make leaps and bounds Morris has been unable to come close to matching any of those expectations.
One caveat. In April Markieff had what was easily the best five game stretch of his career, including a 20 point, 7 rebound, 6 block, 5 steal effort in the Suns home finale victory over the Houston Rockets. Maybe a lambent reason for hope?
Morris turns 24 this summer. That means he will turn 25 before the 2014-15 season when the Suns have their first team option year at ~$3 million. If there isn't
salient amelioration marked improvement to his game it might make sense for the Suns to cut their losses and utilize their cap space on someone with a reasonable chance to grow/contribute more than Morris has thus far. This all assumes that Morris isn't moved or some other scenario plays out before then.
Markieff Morris is not a good NBA player. The fact that he was given, and I do mean given, a sizable role on the Suns this past season is very telling in terms of how far the team has sunk. Morris would not get many minutes on most teams in the NBA. I had hoped for more, though not necessarily expected more, from Morris before the season. My hopes were dashed by his putrid performance.
During my preseason predictions I named Michael Beasley and Markieff Morris as the players to watch as a bellwether for the Suns' success. I said that if you told me how those two would perform I could tell you how the season would unfurl... I guess we all know how that worked out.
Bad player + no improvement = D (I was tempted to go with D-)