ESPN Insider Chad Ford has spent the past few years bashing the Phoenix Suns at every turn, dating back to 2008. I still remember a chat he hosted with three weeks to go in the regular season in 2010 when he predicted that the SUNS would be the team that dropped out of the playoffs before it was all said and done. Yes, that's the year the Suns charged to a 28-7 finish and the 3rd seed overall in the playoffs.
To be fair, Ford's been right on his non-playoff predictions every year since. But I won't forget that 2010 prediction. Still sticks in my craw.
Anyhoo, he's taken every opportunity to put down the Suns since then, so imagine my surprise when his draft prediction paragraph actually contained some neutral-to-positive commentary!
Ford still has the Suns in the 4th position because the Draft Lottery has not happened yet. That's still scheduled for about two weeks from now. After that, the Suns would slot anywhere from #1 overall to #7 overall.
Until then, we're #4. And the Suns draft shooting guard Victor Oladipo!
Drafted ahead of Olidapo: PF-C Nerlens Noel, SG Ben McLemore and SF Otto Porter. All better players.
Drafted behind Olidapo (ie. guys the Suns could take instead, which will certainly contain at least one All-Star): Trey Burke, Anthony Bennett, Shabazz Muhammad, Alex Len, C.J. McCollum and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
That's your top 10 folks!
Not very inspiring, but if you're going to draft in the lottery this year, the top 4-5 players is where it's at.
Judging Morris based on his peers
Six of the nine players taken directly after Morris appear to have long, successful careers ahead of them while Morris is looking more and more like a squandered draft pick.
This doesn't even include players such as Jimmy Butler (#30 first round), who just had 21 points and 14 rebounds in the Bulls' game one win at Miami, or Chandler Parsons (#38 second round), who absolutely puts Markieff to shame. The 2011 NBA draft was actually rife with solid players middle first round and below. Many of these players project as, or already are, starters. There may even be some potential all-stars, such as Faried, from this group.
Can Markieff progress and catch some of his draft class? Possibly. But it doesn't bode well that he is the oldest player on the above chart...
This glaring example of the Suns' ineptitude with the draft isn't Markieff's fault, though, so maybe another metric would be more valuable in gauging his performance. Which means another chart. I like charts.
This one ranks Morris against all the other power forwards in the league. As this delineates, Morris is near the bottom of the league in shooting and win shares. Keep in mind that there are only 97 power forwards on the list, and many of them are garbage players temporarily filling roster spots while galumphing their way out of the league, so that makes those rankings pretty alarming.
What is also disconcerting is that Morris doesn't even possess the rebounding prowess of a backup power forward (top 60). This was supposed to be one of Markieff's biggest strengths, as rebounding tends to translate well from college to the pros. It hasn't translated. After averaging 12.3 rebounds per 36 at Kansas, Morris managed to to pull down just 7.8 last season. Oh snap...
To insert some rainbows and bumblebees into my largely scathing review, Morris does rank out fairly well in ancillary stats to those that are traditionally associated with a power forward. His steals, blocks, assists and three point shooting all grade out pretty well.
My analysis of this data leads me to believe that Morris needs a lot of improvement to even become a serviceable backup in the NBA.
Speaking of improvement...
Judging Morris based on his improvement
Do these numbers appear correlative? That's because they are almost imperceptibly different. It would probably be easier to make an argument that Markieff has regressed than that he has evolved as a player. I'll just propound that he has remained static; like a stone gargoyle, but much less imposing.
Which makes the improvement... nonexistent. In a year that one would hope a young player would make leaps and bounds Morris has been unable to come close to matching any of those expectations.
One caveat. In April Markieff had what was easily the best five game stretch of his career, including a 20 point, 7 rebound, 6 block, 5 steal effort in the Suns home finale victory over the Houston Rockets. Maybe a lambent reason for hope?
Morris turns 24 this summer. That means he will turn 25 before the 2014-15 season when the Suns have their first team option year at ~$3 million. If there isn't
salient amelioration marked improvement to his game it might make sense for the Suns to cut their losses and utilize their cap space on someone with a reasonable chance to grow/contribute more than Morris has thus far. This all assumes that Morris isn't moved or some other scenario plays out before then.
Markieff Morris is not a good NBA player. The fact that he was given, and I do mean given, a sizable role on the Suns this past season is very telling in terms of how far the team has sunk. Morris would not get many minutes on most teams in the NBA. I had hoped for more, though not necessarily expected more, from Morris before the season. My hopes were dashed by his putrid performance.
During my preseason predictions I named Michael Beasley and Markieff Morris as the players to watch as a bellwether for the Suns' success. I said that if you told me how those two would perform I could tell you how the season would unfurl... I guess we all know how that worked out.
Bad player + no improvement = D (I was tempted to go with D-)
Over the next four years, Suns fans, local media, national media and opponents will have plenty of chances to write about the job that GM Ryan McDonough is doing for the Phoenix Suns. We will pick apart every move, analyze every non-move to death and make up imaginary conspiracy theories at every turn.
New Phoenix Suns GM Ryan McDonough can't possibly do everything right. But in his first 12 months on the job, all he has to do is perform better than his predecessor in
purple black and orange. All he has to do is refrain from signing another underachiever for too much money. All he has to do is draft a sure-fire NBA starting-caliber talent each summer (which should be easy this year with a top pick). All he has to do is be nice to fans, the media, players and team employees and make himself available to any and all at the drop of a hat.
"We have to nail it," Lon Babby said in April about this upcoming summer, right after the most dismal season in Suns history ended with a thud.
Decision #1: part ways with incumbent GM Lance Blanks. There's no way you can return the entire management structure that put together such a terrible team. So Babby made the tough decision and let Lance Blanks fade into sunset (from the shadows).
Decision #2: Hit a home run with the GM hire. Bring in the next up-and-coming GM in the mold of Sam Presti, Masai Ujiri, Rob Hennigan and Rich Cho.
"I haven't heard my name and 'wildly praised' in the same sentence in a long time," Babby quipped at the beginning of his radio interview on KTAR following the announcement.
"He's got the three components you like," Lon Babby said on ArizonaSports KTAR yesterday about Ryan McDonough. "He started in the video room, so he's well-versed on tapes. He traveled the world to see players with boots on the ground to develop relationships with teams and coaches. He's got the analytics that is critical to our future."
Ryan McDonough is the epitome of the new mold of GM. He will be introduced to the media tomorrow, Thursday, at 11:30am. From that point on, the honeymoon starts.
Today's article is simply a list of quotes about the Suns hire. It's been a long, long time since such universal praise has been heaped on a Suns decision.
Why would such a coveted guy go to such a fumbling franchise? Well, in the end the Suns franchise may just have been a perfect opportunity.
"At the end of the day, there were three terrific candidates," Babby said of the hiring process. "This is a great franchise, a great city and this was a coveted position. No one we contacted didn't want to participate."
"It's a very inspired hire by Lon Babby and (Managing Partner) Robert Sarver," said Memphis GM Chris Wallace, who was Boston's GM when McDonough joined the Celtics. "He's been an up-and-comer for some time. He always loved the game and loved the job. You could tell the job was in his DNA."
"You'll see the Suns use every tool imaginable to know what players bring to the organization," Wallace said. "He and his people will look under rocks to find them. He'll be on the phone to make trades and see what's out there to help that team win."
"Whether it's your visual observations, statistical analysis, information you gather on background and personality, if you're not using all that information you're at a disadvantage," McDonough says. "The trick is how do you weigh all of that? More importantly, where is that information coming from? Over time you figure out individually what's most important to you as an evaluator and everybody does that differently."
McDonough isn't a "basketball guy." He didn't play beyond high school and he's never coached. Instead, he was raised in the video room where he pored over hours of tape back when it was actually tape. He understands advanced metrics and he's been on the road for close to a decade scouting players from Ruston, La., to Belgrade, Serbia, and everywhere in-between.
He's part of a new breed of talent evaluators who have been making inroads into the highest level of the NBA in recent years.
He's part of a new breed of talent evaluators who have been making inroads into the highest level of the NBA in recent years. His peers include men like Sam Presti in Oklahoma City, Masai Ujiri in Denver and Rob Hennigan in Orlando -- men who have already made the jump to running their own franchises.
"Ryan has earned the right to do things his way, just because he's a hard worker," says [Boston Celtics President and GM Danny] Ainge. "He doesn't take shortcuts. At the end of the day, his evaluations have been really good and I trust him. We all look at players differently and we all do it differently. Ryan's been amazing. He's been huge for the success of our franchise."
"I thought he was a basketball junkie," says Wallace. "He loved this stuff. Totally immersed in it, which I think is one of the prerequisites for working in the NBA. Second, he had been around big-time sports at so many levels and association because of his father and his brothers. Third, he was very diligent, hard, hard worker who would do whatever it takes to get the job done and succeed."
"He's very good at what he does," Celtics coach Doc Rivers says. "He'll be a GM. There's no doubt about that."
"He's well rounded in the skills that he brings to the front office," Hennigan said. "He's got a bright future and he's really well-respected."
"My thing was I tried to know all the players," McDonough says. "I wanted to know everything about them: all their tendencies, all their strengths and weakness, all the background, biographical information. The stats weren't as advanced as they are now, but I'd study the raw stats. This isn't a trivia contest. You're studying the information."
"The best thing that happened to my career is working with Danny because he's so open," says McDonough. "He'll go to interns and say, ‘So what do you think?'"
"I'm very excited for Ryan," Ainge said. "He's reliable and competent and I'm going to miss him. At the same time, I'm very excited about this opportunity for him. This is what his dream is."
"Ryan has been an important part of our basketball operations and will be missed," said Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck. "I personally hired him following a conversation with his late dad Will and Red Auerbach and expected that he would pursue a career in our media department.
"But he requested a role as junior scout and excelled immediately, working his way to assistant GM and now a full GM job in the league. I couldn't be happier for him and I am sure his late dad as well as Red are very proud right now."
"I think it is a tremendous, tremendous hire by Robert Sarver and Lon Babby," Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports told Brad Cesmat on ‘Big Guy on Sports' Tuesday. "I think it's really the best move in this Babby-era."
"He was the driving force behind doing the deal to get Rajon Rondo," Wojnarowski explained. "The mold that I think Ryan will use there is what they did in Oklahoma City, what they are trying to do in Orlando: which is build through the draft and tear the thing down and then build it back up with young players and stop chasing the eighth seed, stop chasing the seventh seed and build a real foundation. That's what the Suns desperately need."
"He's one of those guys that knows basketball," said Eddie House, former Sun and Celtic. "He's been around it and has had great tutelage being under (Celtics GM) Danny Ainge and just being around that whole championship feel -- it's a great hire for the Phoenix Suns. I don't see them going wrong with that at all."
So far, so good.