Kansas forward Markieff Morris dunks during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Colorado in Boulder, Colo., on Wednesday,  Feb. 3, 2010. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

With the 13th overall pick in this year's NBA draft, the Phoenix Suns selected standout Kansas forward Markieff Morris. Not the first, not the second, but the third NBA brother (and second NBA twin) to join the Suns, Morris was drafted to help bring depth to the position vacated by Amar'e Stoudemire a year earlier.

Morris has yet to set foot on the court, in practice or otherwise, as a Phoenix Sun, but that won't stop me from speculating about what his potential impact will be this season and beyond.

  • Finishing Ability: As a Jayhawk, Morris was known as an excellent pick-and-roll finisher, converting almost 70% of his touches at the rim last year. He's been working on improving his back-to-the-basket moves, but is known primarily as an attacker. The Suns like the pick and roll. Steve Nash likes the pick and roll. I like the pick and roll. It's all good.
  • Rebounding Skill: Steadily improving throughout his 3-year collegiate career, he averaged 8.3 rebounds last year and improved his rebounding rate in each year. Alvin Gentry can expect a guy willing and able to attack the boards when Markieff's name gets called. I don't think we're in for another Taylor Griffin experience in this category, but one thing Morris will need to do is stay in the weight room. He's not a huge body in the paint but he has good footwork.
Those two attributes aren't qualities that I would pin on Channing Frye, the current starter at the PF spot. Channing has a uniqueness among NBA forwards in that he has the silky smooth, reliable 3-pointer stroke that allows him to stretch the floor. Over the last year or so, Frye has been improving in areas such as post defense and rebounding, but his bread and butter is the pick-and-pop with Nash.

Join me after the jump for a little bit more....

Markieff Morris is just what the Phoenix Suns need to bring increased balance to the frontcourt. Channing Frye will continue to be a matchup nightmare for any team and I expect him to continue starting at the 4 as long as the shot remains silky smooth. The really cool part, though, comes when Morris is inserted into the lineup. Able to hold his own in the paint, Markieff will develop into a hard-nosed defender and aggressive slasher when that's what's needed.

So, what should we watch for this season with Markieff? Watch for aggressive weak-wide rebounding and good defense inside 15 feet. Watch for the pick-and-roll (hopefully a more controlled version of the Hakim Warrick p&r), with both Steve Nash and Sebastian Telfair running the point. Watch for a new mid-range jumpshot that he's been working on that he started to develop last year.

I would dare say that Morris will be perfect fit for the Phoenix Suns' second unit this year. It would take Channing Frye losing his edge for Morris to bust into the starting lineup, but I'll look for him to get 13-18 minutes out of the gate, complementing Channing's outside shooting with his own brand of mix-it-up-in-the-paint basketball.

Get ready for a lot of these!

The Phoenix Suns have acquired two short-term and relatively cheap players who can help the team this season while still allowing Phoenix to save cap room for next seasons' expected rebuild. Shannon Brown and Sebastian Telfair were both selected to fill positions of need that will help shore up the Suns roster for the time being, and hopefully help this team stay competitive for one more season before the inevitable changing of the guard (pun intended) next year.

Heading into the 2011-12 season, the Suns have cut ties with Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus, and Gani Lawal (we hardly knew ya) and added Shannon Brown and Sebastian Telfair in their place. Actually, Telfair was signed to replace Aaron Brooks, who appears to be stuck in China until at least February, as the back-up point guard to Steve Nash. Either way, the Suns now appear ready to begin training camp with their new team for the 2011-2012 season without any glaring holes at any of the five positions.

So now that the Suns have made their choices, how will these new players fit in with the Suns offense and style of play? Can the Suns expect to still compete this year with the players who are currently on the roster? Continue reading after the jump for some possible answers as well as some highlight videos of both players.

There's no doubt Shannon Brown is best known for his insane leaping ability and highlight reel dunks. However, he can also be an effective defender and a three-point threat who can light it up from beyond the arc when he's in rhythm. Brown has sometimes been criticized for his shot selection and his reliance on outside shooting rather than penetrating to the rim, but he has consistently improved in nearly every aspect of his game over the past few years and could be a very good fit for a Suns team looking to add more energy and athleticism, on both ends of the court.

Although most of us are already familiar with Shannon Brown, I thought one of the writers over at our fellow SBNation blog covering the Los Angeles Lakers might be able to provide us with a more in-depth perspective of what he may bring to the Suns. So I contacted C.A. Clark over at Silver Screen and Roll to get his take on Brown as a player...Here's what he had to say:

Shannon Brown is a really mixed bag as a player. Athletically, he's probably one of the top 5 players in the league. His dunks are obviously amazing, but I think the most amazing highlight I've ever seen out of Brown was a block attempt he made in his first season. Point is, he's one of the best jumpers in the league, and he also has some of the biggest hands in the league. He can be a decent shooter, as long as he's taking the right shots, though even then he is prone to inconsistency.

Unfortunately, just about all the other feedback I can provide tilts negative. His defensive instincts are terrible, which is tragic, because an athletic guy like him should be able to forge a decent career as a defender. Nine times out of ten, he'll go under every screen when he shouldn't, and his ability to stay in front of his man isn't the best either. He goes through stretches of being an effective one on one scorer, but those stretches are more than mitigated by the number of times we've wanted him to move the ball to somebody else quicker. He's quite prone to over-dribbling and bad shot taking. I don't know that I'd call him selfish, and I'm very curious how he'll translate his game in Phoenix, where he will have better point guard play than he's ever had in L.A.

As I see it, Brown's impact in Phoenix will depend on how he's used and what the Suns expect from him. He may not be a polished offensive or defensive player, but I have no doubt that his energy and athleticism can be a positive attribute to our team. The addition of Brown to the Suns' roster will give them more flexibility at the wings; allowing them to rotate Dudley and Brown at the two-guard to find the right fit for each unit. Brown isn't going to be able to replace what we lost after trading Jason Richardson, and he simply hasn't proven that he can be consistent enough on either offense or defense to be relied upon for either...at least not yet. But Brown should definitely provide that spark off the bench that the Suns' 2nd unit lacked last season after Dudley was moved into the starting unit, and he will be certainly be entertaining for the fans to watch play as well.

Plus, and this can't be overstated, the guy can flat-out DUNK!!!

As for Sebastian Telfair, where do I begin? Once believed to be one of the most talented players in the world and on par with the likes of fellow high school standouts LeBron James and Dwight Howard, Sebastian Telfair was a playground legend from NYC who was both the subject of a book (The Jump: Sebastian Telfair and the High-Stakes Business of High School B-Ball) and also a documentary film (Through the Fire). But since turning pro, Telfair's story has been one of disappointment and constant relocation, playing for what will now be his sixth team in nine seasons.

So who is Sebastian Telfair? He is no longer the high-school phenom that was once the 13th pick in the draft. He is now a 26 year old player who is finding it difficult to shed the bust label after sky-high expectations when he first entered the league straight out of Lincoln H.S. in NYC. Telfair is not a consistent outside shooter, but he is a fast and quick guard with tremendous ball-handling skills who can penetrate to the rim and score. Nor is he a great defender, but he is effective in using his quickness to stay in front of his man and pressuring the opposing player.

There's no guarantee that Telfair will be the de facto back-up PG to start the season. Zabian Dowdell is still on the roster and may have a leg up due to his familiarity with the system and the players. Still, even though Dowdell performed better than expected during his opportunities last season, he still struggled to run the offense for any length of time and was very limited as a scorer s well. Something Telfair has already proven to be capable of.

Telfair has already been a starting point guard in this league and has the potential to be a very solid back-up as well. Of course, he also has the potential to be a complete bust for the Suns, but I believe with limited responsibility in the 2nd unit and his incredible speed and quickness he could really help this team.

Take a look at Telfair at his best when playing for Minnesota:

In all, both Shannon Brown and Sebastian Telfair bring youth, energy, and tons of athleticism to the Suns. Both of these players fit in extremely well with the fast-paced tempo of the Suns' offense; and they could both benefit Phoenix by giving the Suns added scoring off the bench as well, which was something the Suns struggled to find consistently last season.

Could these players help the Suns compete this year? Sure, but they won't make enough of a difference by themselves. If the Suns hope to be a competitive team this season they will need to find increased production in the post by a player other than Gortat. If Morris, Frye, Lopez, or Warrick can step up and contribute more on the inside, Brown and Telfair could certainly help solidify our back-up guard positions while Nash and Dudley are off the floor.

The bottom line is that with one-year deals, no one is expecting either of these players to be a long-term solution or a building block for the future, but they could both turn out to be sound additions to the roster for this season, if nothing else.

Umm...welcome back?

The Phoenix Suns agreed to send Mickael Pietrus and his $5.3 Million expiring salary to the Toronto Raptors for a conditional second round pick yesterday, but after working out with the Raptors and being examined by a physician the deal has been called off.

According to an article by Paul Coro of the AZ Republic, Pietrus reportedly still had some swelling in his right knee that showed up on an MRI, which was the same knee he injured last March while playing for the Suns.

Pietrus had undergone minor surgery and treatment on his knee during the off-season and initially passed his physical exam just yesterday, but the forwards' agent Bill McCandless confirmed that the trade had been "postponed" for the time being and that the Raptors medical staff determined he was still 2-4 weeks from being ready to play.

McCandless explained that Pietrus will return to the Suns where he will continue rehabilitation on his knee. There has been no word from the Suns as of yet in regards to what they plan to do now with Pietrus, but at least for now it appears the he will remain on the team.

During his two-year stint with the Lakers, Shannon Brown made a name for himself with his aerial acrobatics. He emerged as one of the NBA’s top dunkers under the bright lights of Los...

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Blow up the team? No, we're not doing that.

Conventional wisdom among NBA experts is that when the window of championship contending has closed for a team, it's time to trade off valuable veterans for young prospects and picks to expedite the rebuilding process. The Phoenix Suns are currently ignoring this axiom as they keep their two team captains, each on the wrong side of age 35, and attempt to re-tool without bottoming out.

With the re-signing of Grant Hill, repeated expressions of desire to hold onto Steve Nash for the final year of his contract, and pending signings of modestly priced free agents Sebastian Telfair and Shannon Brown to 1-year deals, the Suns likely find themselves in the place that is seen as dreaded no man's land: a team that will be a lower-rung playoff seed at best, with aging and declining team captains.

Why aren't they making a push for any of the superstars who are in play right now? Failing that, why not strip the roster down to the bones and amass as many picks and youngsters as possible, success this year be damned? What are the Suns thinking?

It's easy to look at the Suns now and say that Sarver and his revolving cast in the front office have mismanaged the team to leave them in this situation. The time to blow it up and trade Nash was when he had more value than he does now as a 37-year old coming off an injury at the end of last season. But, as always, it's not quite that simple.

When should the Suns have traded Nash? After the Shaq experiment failed? Then we would have missed out on the glorious playoff run of 2010. I'll pass on that.

After Amare left for New York? This would have made a little more sense, but it would have meant entirely blowing up a team that made the conference finals the previous season, and there was some realistic hope that the Suns could fill in pieces to replace Amare. That they failed in those attempts doesn't necessarily mean it was faulty reasoning, just bad execution.

Let Nash go right now? There is no way Nash is worth as much to any other team, both on the floor and at the box office, as he is to the Suns. Any offer we'd receive for Nash would reflect that. Hopes of returning a blue-chip prospect or premium draft pick for Nash? Unlikely. This in addition to the fact that the Suns would suffer a huge public relations hit in dealing the super-popular Nash and guaranteeing a season of terrible basketball, when owner Robert Sarver's fan approval rating must be at an all-time low already.

So, here we are. It's not an ideal position, but it's also not impossible. The Suns front office is aiming to achieve these objectives:

  • Field a team that can compete for a playoff spot.
  • Keep Grant Hill and Steve Nash for at least this season, after which Nash's contract is up and both he and the team can re-assess.
  • Fill roster holes with inexpensive, low-risk, short-term contracts. Hello, Sebastian Telfair and Shannon Brown!
  • Hold core role players with favorable contracts (Jared Dudley, Marcin Gortat and Channing Frye).
  • Maintain projected cap space for summer of 2012 to enable signing of one or two top drawer free agents then.

We're all witnessing the chaos of the current lockout-shortened free agency period and it isn't pretty. A preseason of a little over two weeks won't be kind to teams trying to radically reconstruct their roster right now. For the Suns, jettisoning Nash (for a questionable return) would doom us to a season as one of the league's doormats. It would also further define the image of Sarver as a mean old miser who tore the team down and cares only about dollar bills and not wins.

Let's not discount the image problem Sarver has. On the one hand, you don't want to make basketball decisions due to public relations or short-term fan concerns. On the other hand, a miserable season from the Suns right now might cement the image of Sarver and his team as losers. Cap space next year will only be worth anything if players want to play for your organization. The Suns have some work to do in that area after once excelling in it, and a terrible season now is the last thing they need in attempting to improve the organization's image.

Besides, what would we really gain by blowing up the team and this season? It's well-established that the upcoming draft will be good and deep, so it makes sense that we'd want to load up on picks BUT this also means that teams won't be tossing around first rounders in trades as they were before the last draft, which experts knew to be weak. What quality of pick or picks could we get for trading off our assets? The last thing we need is more role players, so acquiring them would be pointless. Our cap situation for next offseason is already just about optimized, but for the contracts of Josh Childress and Hakim Warrick, who are overpaid but not obscenely so.

So far, the Suns are executing their plan well this offseason in re-signing Hill and signing Brown and Telfair. It remains to be seen if the team assembled can thrill fans with a push for a playoff spot. Depending upon a 37-year old Nash at point with a marginal Telfair at backup could doom the season anyway, but there is hope for a playoff team here. The real challenge will be in the summer of 2012, when the front office will have to make wise decisions with this cap space they've carefully created for themselves.

The plan is fine; execution will be the key.

Is the current Suns plan wise, or should they blow the team up right now?

  657 votes | Results

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