Welcome to the first weekly installment of the "Phoenix Suns Player of the Week" series. This new feature will replace the "Suns Weekly Player Rankings" from last season, which may have been a bit too comprehensive given the lack of quality talent on the roster at the time.
This new weekly feature will facilitate the ability to focus in on the players who really deserve the attention, while omitting those who are barely worth mentioning...At least until they earn their way into the list. This will begin with an examination of the top three candidates as determined by their play in the weekly games, and culminate with a winner based on not only stats, but also on their importance to the team...which is sometimes difficult to measure with numbers alone.
So without further ado, here is a look at the first three candidates:
Eric Bledsoe aka "Mr. 4th Quarter"
Weekly Stat Averages:
Points: 20.5 FG%: .572 Assists: 8.25 Steals: 2.25 Rebounds: 3.75
Eric Bledsoe has been the highest scoring player on the team thus far, and also the most clutch with his ability to seemingly take over games in the 4th quarter, and put the team on his back when it matters the most.
In addition to leading the Suns in scoring, Bledsoe is also leading the team in assists and steals. Now that may change once Dragic is healthy and back in the line up, but there's no question that Bledsoe has been everything the Suns could have hoped for and more.
Markieff Morris aka "The Philly Phoenix"
Weekly Stat Averages:
Points: 18.4 FG%: .583 Assists: 2.0 Steals: 1.5 Rebounds: 7.5
Just when Suns fans were ready to give up on Markieff Morris after starting his third season with the same inconsistent play that he exhibited in his first two seasons, Markieff suddenly rose from the ashes this week with very impressive play off the bench that included less jump-shots, more dunks, and an aggressive, physical style of play.
Markieff played the best game of his career this week in San Antonio going 11-13 from the field and tying his career high with 23 points...but he wasn't finished. In the very next game, he went 10-13 from the field and got to the line frequently where he shot 7-8 for a new career high of 28 points, to go along with his 10 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 assists. This was the best week in Markieff's young NBA career, and he made a huge difference for the Suns with his new-found style of big-man basketball.
Miles Plumlee aka "Double-Doublee"
Weekly Stat Averages:
Points: 10.75 FG%: .480 Blocks: 1.25 Rebounds: 6.75
Not only do the Suns appear to have a new fan favorite in town with Miles Plumlee, but he is proving to be one of the biggest surprises in the NBA as a whole this season. Plumlee is leading the Suns in double-doubles, and although he is only 55 minutes removed from being a rookie this season, he has become one of the most important players on the team.
The Frequent Flyer (I refuse to call him Plumdog) had one bad game offensively this week against OKC which significantly lowered his averages. However, even when he isn't scoring the ball or getting credited for rebounds and blocks, he is doing a lot of really good things on the court and making a huge difference when he's on the floor. Plumlee's numbers this week do not tell the entire story, as anyone who watched him play can attest to. He has had an outstanding week and has been one of the biggest keys to the Suns success thus far.
The Player of the Week
Keef deserves the player of the week award for stringing together the three best games of his career in a row, and improving in each of them. This is the player the Suns were hoping for when they drafted him in 2011, and if he can continue to play at this level, or even close to it, he can make a huge difference for this team. Markieff has seemingly readjusted his focus from being a stretch four to playing more in the low post. He has only taken two thee-point shots thus far in the season, and has done the majority of his scoring at the rim and at the foul line...which is exactly what the organization and fans have been waiting to see from him.
Who knows if Markieff can continue to reinvent himself into the efficient low-post scoring and rebounding machine that he has become over the past few games, but he deserves credit for his impressive turnaround after what appeared to be another lackluster start to the season. Keef gave the Suns an added dimension of toughness and efficiency in and around the post that they haven't been able to get from him before. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come for the new and improved Markieff Morris.