Harden had 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

      
 
 

The NBA is apparently going in an entirely new direction with its Christmas Day uniforms for the 2015-16 season. Too bad we'll never get to see them used.

The sports uniform web site Uni-watch.com has broken the NBA internet with the only thing sexier than a Steve Nash pocketpass: leaked images of new uniforms. In this case we are looking at designs for the Christmas Day games on December 25, 2015.

You will immediately note the distinct and very pleasing lack of sleeves. Hopefully, this signals a move away from that horrible idea that most fans and players equally loath. Basketball uniforms should not have sleeves in any league with players above the age of 12. Period.

This design has a throwback script font and a clean and simple design that I like because I also have a throwback and simple design that at least my kids like...or pretend to like. Whatever.

Of course, before you get too excited and put these on your Christmas wish list remember that only the league's best and most appealing (aka big market) teams are selected to play in the NBA's premier holiday showcase. So basically, don't expect the Phoenix Suns to ever wear these.

Then again, it's 100% reasonable to assume that the league will still find a way to sell you something so maybe go ahead and start begging your mom for one now.

Here's the shorts that will supposedly go with the shirts that we will likely never see stained by the sweet sweat of Alex Len.

xmas shorts

Marcus Morris' 2014-15 season was filled with some good, plenty of bad, and way too much foolishness.

After the best year of his young career in 2013-14, Marcus Morris entered the 2014-15 season with increased expectations following a contract extension with the Phoenix Suns. President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby gave Marcus and Morris a $52 million sum and told them to split it however they'd like over four years.

The twins decided that Markieff's official salary would be $8 million per year while Marcus would earn $5 million. If I can be allowed a tangent here, this is how I like to imagine that conversation between the Morrii went last September:

Markieff: Hey bro, how should we split the $52 million Lon gave us?

Marcus: I mean, we've called halfsies on everything all our lives. I think it makes sense to split it down the middle, right? $6.5 million a year for each of us?

Markieff: I guess. I got no problem splitting the money in half but I kind of think our official salaries should maybe reflect our respective market values, no?

Marcus: Come on, man, I think our market values are pretty equal.

Markieff: I don't know, Mook. I played more minutes last year, scored more, shot better, rebounded better, passed better and probably defended better. I think I'm a $10 million a year kind of guy.

Marcus: But, bro...#FOE.

Markieff: Alright, fine. I love you bro, but I think you're about 60% of the player I am. So how about you get $5 million a year and I get $8 million? All you need to do to earn it is to make sure your technical foul count for the season is 60% of mine.

Marcus: Ok. Deal. Now let's go have a hell of a season filled with on-court tantrums and off-court legal issues!

Pretty much mirroring the trajectory of the entire team, Marcus Morris' 2014-15 season was an up and down one. It began well but ultimately spiraled downwards as the year progressed. In the end, it left Marcus not too far from where he was at the start of the season­—at the footpath of NBA mediocrity.

The Good

In the 2014-15 season, Marcus Morris set a career high in minutes and games started with 25.2 minutes per game and 35 starts.

There wasn't too much else that fell under the "good" category.

Thanks to P.J. Tucker's super extreme summer, Marcus Morris began the season as a starter and hit 5 threes on his way to 21 points against the Lakers on opening night (unfortunately, he would only eclipse the 20 point benchmark four more times the rest of the season, but more on that later). He went on to shoot the three-ball very well in the first couple months of the season, hitting at a 44% clip through 2014. Despite his regression in the latter half of the season, Mook's 35.8% shooting from beyond the arc for the year was the highest of all qualified players still in a Suns uniform at the end of the season.

In terms of improvements from the previous season, one noticeable development was Marcus' one-on-one defense, which he addressed as an area of focus over the previous offseason.

When it comes to defense, Marcus can be described as fairly average, with one-on-one defense being a strength. There wasn't much of an overall defensive impact made by Marcus—on average, opposing players shot about 0.5% worse against him than they normally did. While he isn't good at defending anywhere near the paint, he made a noticeable improvement in his perimeter defense. On shots greater than 15 ft., players' field goal percentage was about 2.3% worse against Marcus than normal.

This video from our own Sam Cooper is a great example of Marcus' improved one-on-one defense.

The Bad

The bad news is that Marcus Morris' 2014-15 campaign can be considered somewhat of a step back for him. His field goal percentage, three point percentage, free throw percentage, points per 36 minutes, win shares and offensive rating all fell from 2013-14.

Marcus, who is generally regarded as a good shooter and the better long-distance marksman among the Morris twins, had a very pedestrian year in that department. In fact, his 35.8% from three is his worst mark since his rookie season. It's also right at the NBA average.

That word – average – is a pretty accurate summation of Marcus Morris at this point of his career. Across the board, his numbers and his game don't reveal any outstanding qualities that can't be replaced by other similar players. Outside of his three point shot (when it's falling, at least), Marcus' biggest strength lies in being efficient in inefficiency. He's a good mid-range shooter and remarkably, he's great at hitting tough, contested shots. He shoots 38.6% from the field on catch-and-shoot shots and 43.3% on pull-ups.

His shot chart reveals that he's a good mid-range shooter, a good three-point shooter from the right elbow and corner, a poor three-point shooter from the left elbow and corner and above the break, and a very poor finisher at the rim.

marcus morris shot chart

Other than his one or two-dribble pull-up, Marcus is not a good shot creator and as his assist rate shows, he's even worse when creating for others. And while his mid-range shot is good, it's not quite good enough to make up for his other offensive deficiencies, like in Markieff's case.

In order for Marcus to take the next step offensively, he'll need to be more consistent as a three-point shooter, become a much better finisher, and draw more fouls. His in-between game is better than average but to really have a positive impact on the floor, he needs to take improve his true shooting percentage from a mediocre 52% to at least 55%.

The Foolish

In addition to minutes, starts and raw points per game, Marcus Morris set another career-high in 2014-15: technicals. Although this was yet another category in which Mook trailed his brother, he was nonetheless impressive in racking up the techs. Of the top 20 technical foul-getters of the 2014-15 season, Marcus averaged the third-lowest minutes per game, trailing only O.J. Mayo and Kevin Garnett. Kudos to Marcus for really making the most out of his minutes.

The ugliest of Marcus' 9 technicals was one he earned in a win against the Timberwolves on January 7, after which he proceeded to take out his frustrations on Coach Jeff Hornacek in front of a national TV audience (we'll get to more on Marcus' tendency to take his anger out on the wrong people later).

The end of the season left a bad taste in fans' mouths for a variety of reasons but one concerning story that will linger into the offseason and possible even into next year is the investigation and arraignment of the Morris twins for a possible assault. The Morrii have pleaded not guilty to the charges but this could potentially be the latest display in a pattern of concerning behavior from the twins, as our own Dave King laid out. But for now, we'll let the judicial process dictate what happens next before judging any more on this particular instance.

Amongst all this foolishness, lest we forget what may be Marcus' worst offense of all – the event that gave birth to this season's motif of "foolishness."

On January 3, Bright Side of the Sun blogger and depressed Knicks fan who takes solace in the failures of other franchises, Bryan Gibberman, wrote an article arguing that the Suns may benefit in the long-term by giving their young players more minutes and building for next season instead of fighting for the playoffs. Although hindsight lends itself in favor of Gibby's argument, his article received a lot of (mostly negative) attention at the time. In fact, Marcus Morris apparently took the time to read it and tweeted out his one-word review of Gibberman's piece:

Promptly after this, Marcus found and blocked ME of all people on Twitter, despite my stance against Gibby's article and all things Gibby in general.

It was all fun and games for a while – the Suns won a few games right after Marcus blocked me and it was hypothesized that Mook's removal of me from his online world as somewhat of an addition by subtraction. Despite deep feelings of betrayal and shock, I put up with it because the Suns were winning.

Suns move to 1-0 since Marcus Morris blocked @sreekyshooter on Twitter

— Scott Howard (@ScottHoward42) January 5, 2015

Also, since Marcus Morris blocked @sreekyshooter the Suns are 2-0.

— Scott Chasen (@SChasenKU) January 7, 2015

@JacobPadilla_ And 3-0 since Marcus Morris blocked @sreekyshooter on Twitter.

— Scott Howard (@ScottHoward42) January 7, 2015

But alas, karmic retribution caught up with Marcus and the his season took a dip soon after. Let's take a look atMarcus' season splits before he blocked me and after:

Pts/36 min Rebs/36 min Asts/36 min Blks/36 min FG% 3pt% FT% TS% ORTG DRTG Avg. +/-
Pre-unfair blocking of Sreekar 15.2 5.9 2.1 .4 .45 .44 .67 .55 112 110 +1.5
Post-unfair blocking of Sreekar 14.7 7.3 2.5 .2 .42 .31 .61 .50 102 105 -2.7

I think numbers speak for themselves. Following the "foolishness" event, Marcus was much less efficient and impactful across the board. The Suns, who were 19-16 before said foolishness, went 20-27 after. The unfortunate Twitter-blocking of an innocent bystander and Marcus Morris' on-court performance are clearly directly related and there are no other elements in play here. This is an inarguable fact.

Final Grade

Marcus Morris will be 26 at the start of next season. I think he can still improve his game and become a better, more consistent role player in the league but that window of expected growth is closing. For now, he is to me the definition of the average NBA player – mediocre in a variety of different aspects, but not exceptional in any one skill in particular. Fortunately for the Suns, he is also paid like an average player; even more fortunately, his presence on the roster allowed them to sign his brother – whose value on the open market this summer (notwithstanding legal troubles) would have likely eclipsed $12 million with the rising cap – at a dramatic discount.

However, a team really should not have to deal with attitude problems from a player of Mook's caliber. To his credit, Marcus did apologize immediately after his very public blowup at Jeff Hornacek. Let's hope he doesn't create as many of these distractions next season.

Beyond this, my biggest problem with Marcus Morris is that he plays the same position as T.J. Warren. Given that Marcus is a very average player and I don't really expect significant improvement from him, I'd like to see a lot of his minutes given to Warren. But can the Suns trade Marcus while retaining Markieff? I'm not sure they can but I would not be surprised to see them explore their options this summer.

Heading into next season, Marcus really needs to become a more consistent outside shooter and get to the line more (and improve his foul shooting). But any and all improvement can only begin with him fixing his gravest mistake by unblocking me on Twitter (and hopefully blocking Gibberman).

FINAL GRADE: F for Foolishness

Ok, that's probably unfair. Just kidding, Marcus (please don't fight me).

FINAL FINAL GRADE: C- for a lack of improvement, not enough consistency, and general foolishness.

Poll
What grade would you give Marcus Morris for his 2014-15 season?

  239 votes | Results

It's that time of year for us at Bright Side of the Sun to hand out our final grades to the Phoenix Suns following a disappointing 2014/15 campaign.

The 2014/15 Phoenix Suns offered very little in the way of reliability, and have created a myriad of polarizing questions. Is Eric Bledsoe worth his contract? Is Alex Len destined for greatness or injury-plagued mediocrity? Will Archie Goodwin ever have a breakout season? Is Ryan McDonough a one-hit wonder? What exactly happened on deadline day?

Ask ten people those questions and you might get ten different answers per person. However, there are two things I think everyone can agree on.

Wright was acquired from the Celtics (who acquired him from Dallas via the Rajon Rondo trade) on January 9, as the Suns were looking to shore up their frontcourt in light of the regression of Miles Plumlee. In exchange, Boston received a top-12 protected first-rounder that was obtained from Minnesota during the Robin Lopez trade of 2012 (the Suns also sent out Hakim Warrick and received Wesley Johnson).

Also worth noting is that the Minnesota pick will become two second-rounders by the time of the 2017 draft, which is the likeliest scenario unless the Wolves hit an unexpected acceleration in their current rebuilding period.

All this is to say, the Wright trade was what you call one of them "no-brainers".

On an enigmatic team characterized by baffling inconsistency and questionable behavior, the quiet Wright could be always be counted on to deliver his trademark mixture of sneaky scoring, heady defense and highlight-reel alley-oop crushes. The insane efficiency he became known for during his years as a Maverick dropped a bit with increased minutes in Phoenix, but he was one of the few positive takeaways from the moribund post-trade Suns.

The Numbers

From Basketball-Reference.com

Wright notched 11.7 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2 blocks per 36 minutes. His advanced numbers contribute a 17.8 PER with a .600 TS%. Ranked among his teammates (including those departed at the deadline fiasco) he comes in at 13th in points per 36, behind the likes of Tyler Ennis and Marcus Thornton.

On the contrary, he comes in with the third highest PER, only bested by Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas, and boasts the highest TS% of anyone to suit up for the Suns this season, though he is hardly the type to boast at all. His 12.4 Total Rebounding Rate is only topped among regular frontcourt players by Alex Len, as is his Block Percentage of 4.2 (equaled by Miles Plumlee).

Furthermore, he is the leading Phoenix Sun in the category of Win Shares Per 48 Minutes with a score of .170 (Isaiah Thomas was the runner-up at .162), despite a minuscule Usage Percentage of 12.8. Only Reggie Bullock and Plumlee scored lower in the USG% category, and the likes of Shavlik Randoph, Anthony Tolliver and A.J. Price actually used more possessions than did Wright.

To recap, Wright held true to his claim as an uber-efficient big man despite the fact that he bore more minutes per game (21.5) than he did during any season in his NBA career. His efficiency dropped from his days as a Maverick, but that should have been somewhat expected given the fact that his numbers with Dallas came alongside Dirk Nowitzki, who is probably the greatest-shooting big man the league has ever seen.

The Eye Test

Beyond the advanced stats, Wright's value to the Suns was obvious due to his unique skillset. For a team that infamously struggled to generate assists, Wright's style of play was a godsend. He is very nimble for a 'big man', and is constantly moving to create passing lanes for his team's ball-handlers. While many big men tend to set up position on the block, Wright constantly keeps himself in an attack-minded position in which he can see both the rim and the ball-handler, and uses his lithe frame and quick hops to generate assist and scoring opportunities that otherwise would not exist.

He isn't particularly adept at creating his own shot -- 73% of his field goals were assisted -- but perhaps this epitomizes exactly what the passing-challenged Suns need. He has a number of unorthodox shots in his arsenal, from flips to hooks to shotputs to floaters, but his real magic lies in his ability to create passing lanes that any point guard worth his salt can find.

Watch the 2014/15 Phoenix Suns for one quarter and tell me they couldn't do with a few passing lanes.

On defense, he squeezes every inch of ability from his 208 pound frame. He'll always be too lightly-built to hold his own against the Gasols and Howards of the world, but he uses his sprawling length to function as a decent rim protector, at least for a second-string center. He also shows considerable instincts and is rarely caught out of position.

If by chance my words are failing you, here is his best game as a Sun that basically encompasses everything I've already said.

Final Grade

If Wright held true to his levels of efficiency as a Maverick, he'd be getting an A+ for sure. However, I must factor in the unfortunate fact that his tenure as a Sun produced the lowest TS% of his career. On the other hand, in this maddening season full of inconsistencies, it was rather nice to depend on at least one player to deliver what you might envision on practically every night.

Wright delivered exactly what the Suns were hoping for when they traded for him, if only at slightly less than superhero levels. He leaves very little to be desired from the backup center position, and if the Suns are looking to shoot for playoffs in 2015/16, that is a pretty important box to check.

And hey, it's pretty bitchin' to be able to say that the Suns unequivocally won this trade in light of the curious moves made at the trade deadline.

He gets a B.

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