Gerald Green's basketball career has taken him all over the world as he's struggled to carve a steady role for himself in the NBA. In his first season in Phoenix, Gerald Green exceeded all expectations and became one of the most productive players for a surprising Suns squad.

When the Phoenix Suns traded Luis Scola to the Indiana Pacers last July for Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee and a protected first round pick, one of the things I wrote was the following:

"Green was a cost the Suns had to incur to get that 1st round pick (and Plumlee, I guess)."


I also had the following brilliant insight:

Could there be any two players more opposite than Luis Scola and Gerald Green?

One's a slow, unathletic veteran who relies on his IQ, craftiness and hustle while the other is pure athleticism and nothing more.

"Pure athleticism and nothing more." Thankfully, I was wrong yet again.

Gerald Green entered the NBA in 2005 straight out of high school as a hyper-athletic prospect that had all of the physical tools one could ever want in a swingman, but barely any of the skills. Between his rookie year and the 2013-14 season, Green has been a member of 10 different professional basketball teams. For those keeping track, that's literally more teams than he can count on his fingers--and that's not including the three D-League squads he's been a part of.

After he struggled to carve a role for himself in the NBA, Gerald spent most of 2009 through 2012 playing in Russia, China and the Lakers' D-League affiliate as he worked on developing his game and climbing the ladder back to the league. In 2012, he earned a spot on the New Jersey Nets roster, where he surprised many by averaging 12.9 points on 48.1% shooting from the field and 39.1% from three in 31 games.

His performance on a 22-44 Nets team earned him a three-year deal from the Indiana Pacers the following offseason, and things finally began to be look brighter for Gerald. However, he struggled to fit into Frank Vogel's scheme and saw his role diminish more and more as the season progressed. With averages of just 7.0 points on 36.6 FG% and 31.4 3PT%, it once again looked like Gerald Green was well on his way to playing himself out of the NBA.

Everything changed, however, when Gerald Green arrived in Phoenix and came under the tutelage of rookie head coach Jeff Hornacek.

"Green" Light

When Gerald Green arrived in the desert, most fans assumed he wouldn't be a major contributor for the Suns, and certainly not one that factored into the team's long-term vision. With as rocky of a career as Green had experienced, it was tough to foresee how productive he would ultimately be as a Sun.

One of the greatest knocks on Green was his questionable shot selection. Fortunately, Jeff Hornacek turned this exact weakness into an advantage for Green and the 2013-14 Phoenix Suns. Hornacek gave Gerald a green light from the get-go, but made sure to optimize his shot attempts as much as he could for efficiency. That, along with Green's quick trigger and the unbelievable lift he gets on his jump shot, made for some prolific and efficient scoring.

Gerald Green 2013-14 Per Game Averages:

Gerald Green 82 49 28.4 5.5 12.3 44.5 2.5 6.2 40.0 2.4 2.8 84.8 3.4 1.5 0.9 15.8

In 82 games this season, Green attempted 12.3 shots per outing, over 50% of which were three-pointers. Jeff Hornacek deserves a lot of credit for optimizing Gerald Green's offensive game and putting him in the perfect spots on the floor to succeed. Of course, Gerald himself deserves a ton of acclaim for developing a consistent game and doing whatever he was asked to do all year long, whether off the bench or as a starter while Eric Bledsoe was injured.

Gerald Green 2013-14 Per Game Averages as a Starter vs. Reserve:

Starter 48 31.5 44.4 38.4 87.1 3.8 1.8 1.1 17.4
Reserve 34 24.0 44.9 42.6 81.1 2.8 1.1 0.5 13.6

Green averaged about 7.5 minutes less per game whenever he came off the bench and therefore scored fewer points than he did as a starter, but he actually shot the ball better from the field and from the three point arc as a reserve. This is a great sign for a team that appears to have its starting back-court of the future in Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe and will definitely need Green's scoring punch off the bench next season.

Another remarkable facet of Gerald Green's play this season was the fact that he improved his performances as the season progressed.

Gerald Green 2013-14 Per Game Averages by Month:

October 1 17.0 66.7 0.0 50.0 5.0
November 16 29.6 45.8 39.5 79.3 15.1
December 13 23.5 40.7 39.3 86.4 11.4
January 16 30.9 44.0 35.2 90.5 15.9
February 12 30.5 43.4 34.8 82.2 17.6
March 16 29.0 43.9 45.2 86.9 18.0
April 8 26.0 50.5 48.9 82.8 18.4

Save for a dip in December, that's a pretty steady increase in scoring throughout the course of the season. Perhaps the best sign is the scoring mark in March and April, when Green averaged his best monthly averages even after Eric Bledsoe returned from injury to demote Green back to the bench.

Here are some notable statistical accomplishments by Gerald Green in the 2013-14 season:

  • He was fourth on the Suns in win shares per 48 minutes and tied with PJ Tucker for third in overall win shares (yes, including defensive win shares) behind Goran Dragic and Markieff Morris.
  • He finished fourth in the entire league with 204 total made three point field goals, behind Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Damian Lillard. Of the top ten total three point field goals made leaders, Gerald Green averaged the lowest number of minutes per game.
  • He averaged career highs in minutes, points, assists, steals and blocks per game, as well as 3PT% and FT%.
  • His 15.8 points per game would have been the second-highest scoring average on a Pacers team that has been starving for some offense lately (and is on the verge of being shocked by the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs). Cool trade, Pacers.
  • He finished fourth in the voting for the 2013-14 NBA Most Improved Player award, which went to his teammate Goran Dragic.
  • A recent analysis by Kirk Goldsberry of Grantland showed that Gerald Green was the best shooter in the league from the left corner three-point line: Screen_shot_2014-04-28_at_11.17.12_pm_medium

Top 5 Gerald Green Moments of the Season

5. Gerald is good at dunking

4. Gerald is also good at himself...and then dunking.

3. Gerald does not like Miles Plumlee's brother

2. Gerald makes Kevin Durant jealous

1. Gerald jumps through the Target Center and happens to hit a game-winner on the way down

The Future Looks Green

Gerald Green is under contract for $3.5 million through the 2014-15 season. When the Suns first acquired him in the Scola deal last July, many people (such as me) saw Green's contract as nothing more than a minor impediment to the Suns' future flexibility. Now, I'm extremely glad he's signed for another season. It will be interesting to see how Gerald will build on his career year--if he can put together two straight seasons of prductivity for a good team, he will definitely earn himself a nice contract in 2015 as a 29 year old, perhaps in the form of an extension from the Suns.

When asked during his exit interview of what he hopes to work on during the offseason to improve his game, Green said, "I think that if I can become a better ball-handler, a better playmaker at the pick-and-roll position or off the dribble, I really think I can take my game to another level.

"I think that if I can become a better ball-handler, a better playmaker at the pick-and-roll position or off the dribble, I really think I can take my game to another level." -Gerald Green

I'm not afraid to take certain shots, I'm not afraid to do certain things. I actually like the pressure of doing stuff like that but I haven't really earned that right yet to say that but this summer, I'm just going to work as much as I can on my ball-handling. I think that right there can help my game, help me be a better player and help me help this team."

That quote brings about another quality about Gerald Green that makes him so endearing to fans--his attitude and demeanor. Gerald is a vocal player and he's not afraid to be candid with his emotions on or off the floor, but he's also very hard on himself and always plays with a chip on his shoulder. He has said on several occasions throughout this year that he hasn't "earned" anything yet as a player and it's easy to see that he truly believes that. As hard as he has worked to find his way back to the NBA, Gerald Green is not going to be satisfied until he keep proving his detractors wrong.

Never stop being you, Gerald.

Grading Green

In some ways, Gerald Green was the embodiment of the 2013-14 Phoenix Suns as a whole. Just like the rest of the team, he surprised almost everyone with an unpredictably exciting season. Just as the team quickly became the darling of the NBA season, Gerald himself became a fan favorite with his mix of how-does-he-float-like-that highlight reel dunks, no-no-no-please-no-YES shots and we're-not-supposed-to-be-here-anyway swagger. And just like the team was left disappointed but hopeful at the end of a season that saw them barely edged out for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, Gerald Green is already talking about coming back stronger and better next year and continuing to prove people wrong.

Gerald Green became a vital cog in the Suns machine and helped lift this team to unforeseeable heights with his 35252525 inch vertical. For proving me (and countless others) wrong, becoming one of the most exciting players in the NBA and enjoying a career year as an integral part of one of the most unexpectedly fun Suns teams I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing, I give Gerald Green an "A."

What grade does Gerald Green deserve for his 2013-14 season?

  498 votes | Results

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Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris rose from an also-ran on an also-ran team to one of the best bench players in the entire league. He has earned strong consideration for the league's Most Improved as well as Sixth Man of the Year.

This time last year, Phoenix Suns second-year forward Markieff Morris had just finished up a really frustrating, disappointing second season in the NBA.

Two years after being drafted onto a playoff regular to fill a needed role, Morris found himself on an island of misfit toys. The only saving grace was that his brother had joined him, yet Marcus' presence didn't spark any magic in their first three months together. In fact, Marcus' game resembled Markieff's so much that former coach Lindsey Hunter appeared have trouble putting them in the same lineups. At the same time, Marcus did something to get himself into the doghouse and off the playing court.

But then summer began. The GM who drafted Markieff was fired, replaced by a GM who wanted to upgrade the team's talent top to bottom. His two NBA coaches were long gone, along with their coaching staffs, replaced by a rookie coach known best for helping people learn how to shoot the ball.

Yet the Morris brothers were determined to succeed. They stayed in Phoenix most of the summer, helped work out draft prospects, willingly signed up for Summer League and found themselves on a good track by mid-July.

While nearly all of their 2012-13 rotation disappeared around them by the time training camp started, Markieff and Marcus Morris were two of only four returnees from the previous squad (with Goran Dragic and P.J. Tucker).

2012-13 revisited

It was a bad year for Markieff. When he was engaged and aggressive, he was a good NBA rotation player. In games where Morris earned 30+ minutes of time, he put up 15.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists. Those are good numbers for any NBA player, let alone a second-year man with sketchy player development support.

Yet, those good games were few and far between. Only 13 times out of 82 games did Markieff earn 30+ minutes. And it's not like he had a lot of competition. By January, there was no need to play 32-year old Luis Scola big minutes on one of the worst teams in the NBA. But Scola played anyway because he put up consistent effort each night.

You can blame coaching and environment for Morris' waning effort and focus, and you'd be right. But still, players like Dragic and Scola were consistent contributors no matter bad it got. Morris was not.

Still, the Suns knew they had a talented player on a good, rookie contract who still had a ways to go. A better coach and better system might just be the tonic Morris needed.

McDonough and Babby traded or released 10 players from last year's roster. None of them were named Morris.

Summer 2013

The Morris brothers vowed to return with a vengeance and improved games for the 2013-14 season. The first evidence of this turn of events was the Las Vegas Summer League. The Suns, behind the coaching of Jeff Hornacek, went 7-1 and generally dominated their competition. The leaders on that team were unquestionably the Morris brothers along with P.J. Tucker.

Markieff began to finish his big drives to the rim with more frequency than ever before. And he began taking fewer 15-20 foot shots. Most of his shots were within 15 feet of the basket.

Preseason 2013

The transformation wasn't yet complete in the preseason, though. Hornacek had the guys taking a ton of three-pointers as a staple in the arsenal of the offense, but Markieff and the other bigs were not invited to the party.

Instead Markieff was supposed to dive to the basket on offense and become the post-up presence the Suns did not otherwise have. For the most part, Markieff followed orders but still occasionally set up behind the three-point line on offense when he wasn't supposed to be. At least once I heard Hornacek imploring him to get into the paint, with Morris replying (as he ran back down the court) "But I was open, coach!". Morris wasn't being defiant. He was just following his instincts instead of the offense.

Regular season 2013-14

All summer and preseason, Markieff was a starter. He expected to remain a starter, while his brother would come off the bench as the first SF sub.

But then Morris was suspended for game one, giving Hornacek the chance to put Channing Frye in the starting lineup. The Suns went on to win that game, shocking the Trail Blazers. Literally. Blazers guard Damian Lillard said the Suns shocked them with their effort and solid play.

Morris never started another game. Being demoted like that could have been a killer to Morris' attitude, but on the contrary Morris and his brother found solace with each other.

Markieff and Marcus would become a great pairing on the second unit, now that Markieff had transformed his game to get scores closer to the basket.

"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."

Where they had both competed for mid-range shots in February and March, now their games didn't resemble each others at all. Marcus spent more time behind the three-point line, while Markieff stayed inside 15 feet of the basket.

"We don't want those guys floating around the free throw line," Hornacek said of the Morris brothers. "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."

"Those guys will penetrate, they'll dish it off to you," Hornacek 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."

And they both flourished.

"I love it," Tucker said of how the Morris twins played. "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 won the NBA's Player of the Week in November, putting up 22.8 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals per game in a 3-1 stretch for the upstart Suns. 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).

That week was just the start for Markieff. He spent most of the season in discussion for Most Improved Player and Sixth Man of the Year (not yet announced). Morris' best month was March - where he scored 16 points, nabbed 7 rebounds and threw 2 assists in only 28 minutes a night.


His 11 double-doubles off the bench led the league. He scored the most bench points in the NBA. Jamal Crawford had more total points, but a big chunk of those were in the starting lineup.

But most of all, Markieff Morris became a hallmark of consistency after having a career marred by the opposite. He played 20+ minutes in 73 of 81 games, scored 10+ points in 59 of 81 games (including 40 of his last 43), and pulled down 5+ rebounds in 52 of 81 games. And he only committed 5+ fouls in 11 of 81 games.

In 20 games of 30+ minutes (again, all off the bench), he averaged 18 points and 8.5 rebounds and 2 assists.

For the year, he put up 13.8 points, 6 rebounds and 1.8 assists in just 26.6 minutes a night. He was often in the game in the fourth quarter as the Suns closed out wins, and just about the only post-up player on the team. By the end of the season, Morris' game resembled more of LaMarcus Aldridge than anyone else.

To his credit, he never once complained about not starting. Morris is a winner, and all he cares about is doing what it takes to win games. Who cares if you start as long as you're there to finish.

And Morris is an intimidator. He was never shy of stepping in for a teammate during scuffle. Morris earned 12 technical fouls, among the league leaders in that area. But nearly every one of them was earned in support of someone else. He didn't complain about getting fouled. He didn't harp on the refs. He just stepped in during scuffles, stopped them, and earned the T that way.

Markieff Morris has arrived. Where can Markieff go from here? Who knows. I'm certainly not going to predict it, since I was so off last summer. Chief Kieff has his destiny in his own hands.

Grade for the season: A

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