While the point guards get the headlines, Markieff Morris has been the Suns most consistently good player.
While so many are watching how the Phoenix Suns three-headed monster of Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas get along in the back court, few have noticed that power forward Markieff Morris has started off the season more productive than ever.
After four games, only three players in the entire NBA - Chris Bosh, Blake Griffin and Tyreke Evans - are putting up a higher combination of points, rebounds and assists per game than the quietly efficient Markieff Morris. And Morris plays at least five fewer minutes per game than any of them.
If you focus only on traditional PF points/rebounds numbers, just 12 NBA players put up more points and rebounds per game than Morris. And every one of those plays more minutes per game.
It's early in the season, of course, and Morris did win a Player of the Week award last season for being even better than this for a stretch, but we need to appreciate Keef's contributions as he has been more consistent than anyone else on the team.
Morris leads the team with two double-doubles in four games and is averaging 17.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists in only 30.5 minutes per contest. He gets so few minutes because the Suns are such a deep team. In fact, Morris is second on the Suns in minutes played, behind only Goran Dragic.
Going back to the assists, Keef is surprisingly third on the team in scoring passes - ahead of Goran Dragic, who is still figuring out his role in the new team dynamic.
And while the Suns are just middle of the pack on defense, Keef holds his own on the blocks to offset his highly efficient offense. The Suns are far better on both offense and defense when Keef is in the game, with a net rating of +27.6 per 100 possessions with him on the court to lead the team in these early stages.
Coach Hornacek is still figuring out the best Suns lineups this early in the season, and he's smartly taking advantage of an easy early schedule over the Suns first four games.
But now the Suns schedule gets a lot tougher (Grizzlies, Kings, Warriors, Nets, Hornets), made just a bit easier by facing them at home. Coming out of this 5-game stand with a winning record will require the Suns to improve their overall play.
Getting Keef on the court for more minutes, as well as Dragic and Bledsoe, while incorporating P.J. Tucker back in the lineup can only help.
Suns win despite pedestrian performances from Bledsoe and Plumlee and poor overall team shooting.
Well, it wasn't pretty and Coach Hornacek is going to have plenty to dig into his guys about come practice time, but the Suns managed to pull out a victory tonight against the Lakers. The game hinged on a particularly impressive series of plays by PJ Tucker. Up 4 with just 41 seconds left in the game, Tucker forced a bad mid-range jumper from Kobe Bryant that missed. After grabbing the rebound, Tucker painted himself into the corner and knocked down a three that deflated the Lakers and ended their chances at the upset.
The Suns were ahead for most of the game, and took their biggest lead in the beginning of the 3rd, when they went up by 11. This was despite relatively uninspired performances from Eric Bledsoe (6 points, 1 block, 1 assist) and Miles Plumlee (2 points, 2 blocks, 2 steals, 7 rebounds), both of whom played only 21 minutes.
The Lakers were able to stick around due to a particularly strong day at the line. The team was awarded 41 free throws, with Jeremy Lin (8), Kobe (9), and Jordan Hill (7) getting a good chunk of their points from the charity stripe. The fouls were concentrated on the wings, with the Morrii and Gerald Green combining for 14 fouls.
The key player for the Suns tonight was undeniably Isaiah Thomas, who continued his strong play off of the bench with a 22 point, 9 assist and 3 steal performance.
It was also Gerald Green's first breakout performance of the season. The ever emotive Green scored 26 points in just 23 minutes, including some absolutely unbelievable alley-oops courtesy of Isaiah Thomas. Those two had a chemistry in this game that simply had not been seen in earlier games.
Markieff had his second double-double of the season with his 23 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists on the night. He was exposed on the defensive block a few times as he was forced to play more center in Coach Hornacek's small ball lineups, but he generally held his own.
Dragic had a ho-hum 16 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists on 42% shooting. I say ho-hum because it was easy to lose track of Dragic, who sat for a significant chunk of the second half.
Alex Len continued his relatively strong play, though he did not produce much offensively. In 20 minutes he put up 9 rebounds and 2 blocks, but only 2 points. On the defensive end, he was a pretty consistent shot altering presence, forcing more than one miss on a Kobe drive. However, his man defense is still a work in progress, as he was taken to task by Jordan Hill and his fairly impressive post footwork on more than one occasion.
The Suns welcomed back PJ Tucker tonight, and though his stat line was not all that impressive (3 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists), it was his defensive sequence that can be credited with stopping the Lakers' comeback.
For all of the little things that the Suns did that allowed the Lakers to stay in the game, the Lakers should be credited with putting together one of their better performances of the season. Kobe managed to score 39 points (on 37 shots...) and grab 9 boards, while Carlos Boozer, Jeremy Lin and Hill combined for 46 points. But the bench scoring simply wasn't there for the Lakers, with all other players combining for just 21 points. And as the game began to wind down, so did Kobe's patience - with under 2 minutes to play and his team down, Kobe could be found on two offensive possessions in a row crowding Lin, drawing his defender into the ball-handler and breaking down whatever semblance of an offensive set that had existed.
The Suns likely won't be entirely happy with their close victory over a team they had just recently beaten by 20. The next game is tomorrow night, when the team takes on Marc Gasol and the Memphis Grizzlies at US Airways Center.
Late because I am dumb. Sorry.