The Morrii - Markieff and Marcus Morris - are playing better than they have every played in the NBA. They attribute a lot of it to getting a chance to play together - a dream of theirs all along.
"He's my twin brother," Markieff Morris says of how they play so well when paired on the court. "We're a team within a team."
While Marcus has always been who he is - a big small forward who can play any wing position - his brother Markieff has suffered a bit from an identity crisis while trying to do everything at the same time. But the Suns drafted a power forward and really need that guy to show up.
This year, Markieff Morris is changing his game. He is embracing the "power" part of being a power forward more than ever before and now he has the results to show for it. But he's not taking total credit for the play of the Suns. He's embraced coming off the bench with his brother, and with the second unit as a whole.
"We are defensive minded first. Offense second," he said about the second unit that contains his twin brother. To be sure the team as a whole is a very good defensive team, and Morris has his best 'defensive rating' of his young career. Both Morris brothers are also pulling down the highest rebounds rate of their careers so far, together totaling 17 per 36 minutes.
But it's the offense that's so exciting to see.
In past seasons, Markieff Morris would float around the perimeter on offense to open up the lane for drivers, but his perimeter shot was not always reliable and, in the words of his coach, would get in the way of the rest of the offense.
"We don't want those guys floating around the free throw line," Hornacek said before Friday's game of both Morris borthers. "We have two guards - Goran and Eric - who want to penetrate. So if you sit in that area, you're basically just clogging it up."
He said it's a learning process, and that Markieff is working on staying down low. During the first two weeks of the 2013-14 season, Morris has repositioned himself much closer to the basket to be available for dumpoffs from the guards or his fellow big men.
"Those guys will penetrate, they'll dish it off to you," he said of the message to Markieff. "You'll get just as many shots on the baseline as you would standing around the free throw line. And then they will be higher percentage shots, dunks, takes to the basket where you get fouled. I think he's trying to do what we ask. Sometimes he forgets and he floats back up there, but that's a process with all these guys."
Markieff is getting more free throws as a result, to the tune of 4.2 per game and almost double last year.
"Definitely. With Mark West, we watch a lot of film and we weren't getting a lot of free throw shots. We have worked in practice and before the games doing a lot of basket moves, fouling, and we try to finish through that."
But it's not just positioning and getting free throws that has improved Markieff Morris' game. He is finishing close shots like never before. In fact, no NBA player since Dwight Howard has shot 75% or better in three consecutive games on at least 12 attempts (courtesy of Paul Coro) until Markieff Morris accomplished that feat in the past three, shooting 11-13, 10-13 and 9-12.
For the season, just six games old for Markieff who was suspended in game one for elbowing a player in preseason, is a pure revelation.
He is shooting 64.9% on field goals overall, with most of those shots within 10 feet of the rim. It's early, for sure, but his play must be celebrated because THIS Markieff Morris is outplaying his draft position for the first time ever.
"A lot of times," Morris said of his comfort level with this team. "Coach is calling plays for me to get me involved in the game on the offensive end."
Not only is Markieff scoring the ball well, he's also a very good passer.
"Yeah, I'm the best passer," he said. "Playing with Marcus in the early years we passed the ball a lot to each other and I just developed a knack for it."
Coach Hornacek calls Markieff one of the best passers on the team, and the stats prove it.
While Markieff has always gotten 1-2 assists per game, he is also second on the team with 0.8 "secondary" assists per game - kind of like hockey assists, making the pass before the pass that got the open shot. Goran Dragic is first on the team (1.0) while brother Marcus Morris is third (0.7).
Markieff Morris is also good at making scoring passes that result in free throws. These are assists that don't count in the raw stats because the shot wasn't converted. Nevertheless, Morris is second on the team in "free throw assists" per game, with 0.6 a night.
"I love it," Tucker said of how the Morris twins are playing. "The twins have accepted coming off the bench, playing together. With Ish coming off the bench with them, the way he pushes the ball you're going to get looks. The team scores, he gets it right back on them and they don't even know the ball is coming. That whole [bench] lineup is tough."
Markieff Morris has been named the Western Conference Player of the Week. From the press release by the Suns.
Morris helped the Suns to a 3-1 week, which included wins over the Denver Nuggets and a home-and-away sweep of the New Orleans Pelicans. The third-year forward tied for seventh in the Western Conference in scoring (22.8 ppg), 14th in the Conference in rebounding (8.0 rpg), eighth in the Conference in steals (2.0 spg) and led the league in field goal percentage (.698). Morris closed the week with three straight outings in which he connected on .750 or better from the field (11-of-13, .846 on Nov. 6; 10-of-13, .769 on Nov. 8; 9-of-12, .750 on Nov. 10). At 5-2, the Suns are off to their best start since the 2009-10 season.