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.

A Phoenix Suns team projected to win the fewest games in the West now has claimed two of the 12 POW honors given out by the NBA this season, including All-Star snub Goran Dragic.

In twelve weeks of play, the Phoenix Suns can now boast of having the best players in the entire Western Conference during two of them. No wonder the Suns are 29-18 and sitting strongly in playoff position.

Markieff Morris won the POW Award in early November by putting up 22 points, 8 rebounds and 2 steals over three games off the bench. Markieff has followed up that honor with a career best season - 12.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, including 10 20-point outings and 6 double-doubles in 46 games without a single start.

In December, it was coach Jeff Hornacek winning Coach of the Month in the West, for the Suns 10-3 record against tough competition.

Now, teammate Goran Dragic is the conference's best player during the last week of January.

Dragic helped Phoenix to a 4-0 week, which included three road wins to complete a sweep of a four-game road trip as the Suns have tied a season-long with their current five-game winning streak. The sixth-year guard averaged 26.8 points on 63.9 percent shooting from the field and 69.2 percent shooting from three-point territory, in addition to posting 6.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds while playing just 29.2 minutes for the week.

Dragic tied a career-long streak with four straight games with 20-plus points, matching his streak from the previous time he won Player of the Week with Houston in 2012.

Unbelievable numbers from Dragic, really. He has stepped up his game in a way never done before.

"It's very difficult to be that guy that scores every single night," coach Hornacek said of Dragic. "Teams scout you, teams focus on you. You have to get in that mindset. The only way to be that guy that scores 20 points every single night is to feel like a guy who score on anybody. That's confidence, and obviously you have to have the ability. He's got that."

That's two Players of the Week and a Coach of the Month for the upstart Suns.

Let's keep this train rolling!

The NBA named Goran Dragic the Western Conference Player of the Week after the Phoenix Suns guard led his team to a 4-0 record from Jan. 27 through Feb. 2. Dragic averaged 26.8 points and 6.0 assists...

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One of the best assets in the NBA is Emeka Okafor's expiring, insured contract, and one of the league's most innovative GMs has it in his back pocket for trade.

Phoenix Suns fans have wanted to get some value out of Emeka Okafor since he was acquired, along with a first round pick, from Washington in the Marcin Gortat trade.

As it turns out, the Wizards pick may end of up being the best draft pick the Suns own this year (2014). The pick is only top-12 protected (meaning the Wizards keep it if they lose a lot of games), but in the terrible Eastern Conference the Wizards are a 90% lock to make the postseason before being trounced by one of the top teams in the East.

Even so, if the Wizards fall completely apart and end up keeping the 2014 pick, the Suns will eventually get their first round pick in a subsequent season no later than 2018. There is continued protection (top-12 in 2014/15, top 10 in 2016/17) until 2018, but that's it.

Still, it may turn out that Emeka Okafor is the best asset in that trade.

Just like the Suns turned Luis Scola into two starters and another #1 pick (likely #30 in 2014), the Suns hope to turn Emeka Okafor into something more than a contract.

Okafor has been injured all season, leaving many to wonder if the Suns would just let his contract expire this summer leaving max cap space to sign someone else.

But as of last Wednesday, the Suns started getting 80% of Okafor's remaining 2013-14 salary covered by insurance. That means the Suns are only on the hook for 20% of his salary for the rest of the season.

That also means that any team to which the Suns trade Okafor would basically be getting him for the cost of minimum salary player.

In return, the Suns could absorb a large contract (up to about $19.5 million full season value) in a simple 1:1 trade if need be. That kind of cap space allows an underachieving, big-spending team to save themselves some huge money this season. Some examples of huge expiring contracts on teams that could want to save money this season are Pau Gasol ($19.2 million, Lakers) and Kris Humphries ($12 million, Celtics).

There are a lot of other players on expiring deals, but it's not readily apparent who will want to trade off their assets in the East given how easy it is to make the playoffs.

I personally don't see Pau Gasol fitting into this system right, but I could see Humphries being a good rebounder off the bench in supporting minutes.

Neither of those players whets my whistle though.

I am not a trade machine guru, but for those of you who are, there are a few tenets I believe will be important to consider in any machinations:

  • the incoming player must be on an expiring contract OR be 25 or younger. There's no way the Suns invest big, long-term money into middle-aged supporting player (I see you, 27 year old Jeff Green who makes $9+ million a year) who is overpaid for their efforts.
  • The Suns will only sacrifice 2014-15 cap space for a young player on the upside.
  • the incoming player must be appreciably better than anything on the Suns roster at their position. It's only "fortifying the roster" if the incoming player is a lot better than what the Suns already have. There's no point forcing the issue, and upsetting chemistry, if it's a level swap of talent.
  • the incoming player must clearly fill a gaping need

Please don't make trade suggestions that don't really help the now AND the future. The Suns won't do anything to shackle them this offseason unless they get a star, not a role player. No way the Suns make it harder to acquire a max-salary player like Kevin Love or an upcoming restricted free agent.

And remember: McDonough and Babby got two starters and a future #1 for a one-year rental on Luis Scola. Don't buy low.

The trade deadline is February 20. That's four days after the All-Star game. Likely, the Suns will hold out until after the ASG to acquire a star who may already be an All-Star (ie. Love) before jumping at any lesser offers beforehand.

The Lakers would not trade Gasol to Cleveland for just Bynum. They wanted a draft pick too. But the Suns won't give anything up but Okafor, so it's up to the Lakers to lower their demands and the Suns to fail to find anything better.

The Phoenix Suns own a trade chip large enough to save a struggling team from paying oodles and oodles of luxury taxes this season.

Emeka Okafor is out for the season, but his $14.5 million expiring contract is 80% paid by insurance for the remainder of the season. Couple that with another $5 million in open cap space, and the Suns have the ability to save someone millions of dollars of salary expenses AND reduce their cap number below the luxury tax threshold.

That's why you heard about a possible Pau Gasol trade yesterday, for nothing more than Okafor's contract and the Suns' cap space.

Gasol makes $19.285 million this season in the last season of his deal. The Lakers have sunk to the third worst team in the West and project to drop all the way to the bottom of the West WITH Gasol.

So why trade him for nothing? Two reasons:

  • A trade for Okafor would save the Lakers $6-7 million in real salary dollars plus the luxury tax multiplier
  • Another small trade to dump salary (about $3 million) would drop the Lakers below the lux tax threshold entirely, freeing them from the spectre of the 'repeater tax' in future seasons and saving even more money this season
  • Being worst in the West still only gets you the 4th or 5th pick in the draft. The Lakers would be better served going worse than 13-22 the rest of the way (which is their current projection)

But that doesn't mean the Suns really want Gasol. It means the Lakers really want the Suns to want Gasol.

According to John Gambodoro of and KTAR (620 AM and 98.7 FM) who's been clued in to the Suns for years, Gasol is one of a number of options the Suns are considering.


Lots of teams want to save money and get under that tax threshold. The Lakers are just one of them.


Gambo's not a mathematician and never purported to be, but he hit on the reason for the trade: money. Between the savings they are currently getting on Okafor (80% paid by insurance) that would go away, plus the extra $5 million in cap space used up, I'd guess Gasol would be at least a $10 million half-season rental difference from Okafor.

Sounds like Suns owner Robert Sarver is willing to spend money to make a good playoff run.

But the Suns would rather get something better than a half-season rental that might not get them further in the playoffs than they currently can get.


They'd rather get a young star who they could lock up for years. Someone like Kevin Love. But Love probably won't be available until after the season. Minnesota still projects to finish strong, though they keep finding ways to lose too many games.

In the meantime, expect a lot more rumors out there over the next 2.5 weeks as teams want to use up the Suns' $20 million in cap space (Okafor + $5 million in free space) and get a first rounder or two back in the process.

if the trade is lopsided toward the other team, it was likely leaked by that team or the player's agent. Don't assume everything you read is actually being hotly considered by the Suns as reported.

But they DO want to do something. If you want to be the oracle, start looking at struggling teams' expiring contracts or really good players on fairly short deals. I'm still a fan of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, for example, in case Chicago wants to clear the books.

Should the Suns acquire Gasol for Okafor's contract?

  1078 votes | Results

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