Editor’s Note: The following is a free-flowing conversation between Michael Schwartz and Kevin Zimmerman on the Phoenix Suns’ options this offseason. Michael Schwartz: Two seasons ago the...

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Yes, Melo. Facepalm.

Four games on the slate for today, as the Bulls find themselves in an unexpected predicament, down 2-1 to the 76ers and now missing Joakim Noah after having already lost Derrick Rose for the rest of the playoffs. Game four is today in Philadelphia.

The Heat have the Knicks on the ropes 3-0, and a first round sweep out of the playoffs looks like a foregone conclusion for the Knicks as superstar Carmelo Anthony is shooting only 34% from the field and Amar'e Stoudemire has done more damage to fire hydrant casings than he has to the Heat. Stoudemire will be a game-time decision, so maybe he'll pull a Willis Reed with his self-inflicted mangled hand and help the Knicks to their first playoff win since 2001.

There's a lot of piling on of Amar'e right now, but AZ Central's Paola Boivin puts things in perspective.

When I reflect on Stoudemire, I will think not of the punch but of the person he has become since being drafted by the Suns a decade ago, of the man many expected to fizzle in the high school-to-NBA experiment who last season was treated to MVP chants in New York.

Tonight, the Nuggets have a chance to even their series at home against the Lakers, and the Celtics and Hawks battle it out in what is probably the least entertaining remaining series.

More on today's games after the jump, and a recap of yesterday's action, which featured the completion of a first round sweep of the defending champion Mavericks.

Yesterday's results:

Today's games:

  • Bulls at 76ers, 10AM MST, ABC
  • Heat at Knicks, 12:30PM MST, ABC
  • Hawks at Celtics, 4PM MST, TNT
  • Lakers at Nuggets, 6:30PM MST, TNT

Today might be the end of another disappointing Knicks season, and that doesn't make me sad. The passing of legendary Beastie Boys member Adam "MCA" Yauch, does make me sad, and since the Beastie Boys were proud Knicks fans, enjoy a little music on this Sunday. RIP, Adam Yauch.

Beastie Boys - So What'cha Want (via BVMUndergroundHipHop)

Marcin Gortat ruthlessly denies poor Cavaliers rookie Tristan Thompson. Should he have won the Most Improved Player award?

The voting for the NBA's Most Improved Player award was revealed yesterday, and Ryan Anderson of the Orlando Magic took home the hardware with 33 first place votes and 260 points overall.

Ryan Anderson posted career highs in points (16.1 ppg), rebounding (7.7 rpg), field goal percentage (43.9 percent) and free throw percentage (87.7 percent) and also lead the league in 3-pointers made (166) and attempted (422). Those numbers are up from 10.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 43 percent from the field and 81.2 percent from the line. Anderson also started every game he played in after last season's starter at the power forward spot, Brandon Bass, was traded to Boston. With the new role came a bump in minutes, from 22.1 mpg last season to 32.1 this year.

Full results can be found after the jump.

Here is a table showing how the votes shook out, courtesy of NBA.com.


As you can see in the table, Suns center Marcin Gortat finished tied for 19th place after receiving one first place vote and one third place vote for a total of 6 points.

I do not have a problem with Gortat not winning it, but 19th place? Only two people voted for him? Gortat had a much stronger case than that.

Gortat also put up career highs in scoring at 15.4 ppg, rebounding at 10 rpg and minutes at 32 mpg. Those numbers are up from 10.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg and 25.4 mpg. Everyone here saw him elevate his game this year to become the Suns leading scorer and rebounder. He became much more comfortable and effective in the pick-and-role in his first full season as the starter in Phoenix.

Gortat slowed down later in the season and that hurts his argument. But I don't believe there are 18 players more deserving than the Polish Machine/Hammer.

The voters obviously have a different set of criteria for this award than I do.

For example, only in rare occasions would I give it to a second-year player. If a player doesn't improve from his rookie to sophomore year, then there is a problem. They are supposed to improve. So while Greg Monroe, DeMarcus Cousins, and Paul George are very good players and have certainly improved, I would not vote for them for this particular award.

Nikola Pekovic and Jeremy Lin both qualify as the rare cases I mentioned, but both players arguments are hurt by injuries. Pekovic only played 47 games, and Lin 35. That is not enough for me to give you my first place vote.

Avery Bradley gets a double strike for me, as he fits the sophomore disqualifier, plus he didn't even enter the national spotlight until the last month of the season when Ray Allen went down. If it is an in-season award, than our own Sebastian Telfair deserves plenty of votes.

Steve Novak would not get a vote for me either. His numbers are only slightly up and he's basically the same player he always has been: a 3-poin shooter. He just found a situation with a shallow roster and a team didn't care that all he did was shoot.

Roy Hibbert doesn't fit the mold of someone who made a big jump from one season to the next at all. He's made steady improvement each year he's been in the league, and his point an rebounds are only up slightly this year compared to last.

In my opinion, Gortat has a much stronger case than most of the players I listed, and he's right there with several other players that finished higher than him.

What do you guys think? Did Gortat get robbed here? What are your criteria for the Most Improved Player?

Not a bad draft pick, eh?

Here at Bright Side of the Sun we take the words TOTAL COVERAGE pretty dang seriously.

While our beloved Suns are off taking nice vacations, we are still slaving away, attempting to provide you all with first class Suns coverage.

So friends, without further adieu, we present you with the Phoenix Suns Season in Review, 2011-12.

Today's review will be Markieff Morris.

With the 13th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns selected Markieff Morris, a 6-foot-9, 240 pound power forward from Kansas University.

When the pick was announced, many voiced their displeasure, lamenting that the Suns had once again picked the lesser brother, as Keef's twin Marcus was the more talented scorer at Lawrence. Now, after a relatively strong season by Markieff and a rookie campaign that consisted of 17 games played and multiple D-League assignments for Marcus, the Suns appear to have made the right choice.

Make the jump for a look at how Keef did in his first season as a pro.

First, Let's get the stats out of the way.

Basic Per Game Stats:

Per 36 Minutes:


There is a lot to like, and a lot to dislike in these tables.Let's look at the positives and negatives he showed us during his rookie season.


Morris showed flashes throughout the season of being a very valuable player for the Suns. He had a handful of great performances for the Suns this season, including a 13-10 double-double and three 20-plus point games.

Early in the year, he was a deadly 3-point shooter, connecting on over 48 percent of his 3-point attempts in December and January.

He has also shown the ability to score in other ways. He's faced up opposing bigs and either shot over the top of them or used the dribble to get to the basket. He's also show some back-to-the-basket skill, busting out some nice post moves now and then.

Morris finished fourth among rookie power forwards in total rebounds, so he's not afraid to get in the paint and mix it up. We all know he doesn't back down from anyone.


Morris' shooting touch fell off a cliff in the second half of the season and he finished the year shooting only 34.7 percent from behind the arc. Many here felt he settled for the jumper way too often, and that is backed up in the numbers. MySynergySports.com says that 26.6 percent of Morris's plays were in spot-up situations, despite the fact that he shot only 38.9 percent on those plays.

While Morris does show potential as a face-up man and post scorer, potential is all it is at this point. Keef shot 39.4 percent on isolation plays and 39.3 percent in post-up situations. He has some moves, but that doesn't really matter if he can't put the ball in the hoop.

While he does give effort, Morris simply is not a good defender. He commits fouls at an incredibly high rate (5.3 PFs per 36) which often prevents him from staying on the floor for any length of time. That is not all that surprising for a rookie, but he has to improve heading into next year.


Kieff has a lot of things to work on, but the most important one right now is putting the ball through the rim. He is simply not a good finisher at the moment. He needs to spend a lot of time this summer shooting jumpers and working on finishing in the paint.

To expect him to replicate the near-50 percent shooting from deep from the first 2 months of the season would be unrealistic. However, he was a 40-percent shooter in college, so his touch from deep wasn't a complete flash in the plan. A big problem is his release. He needs to work on getting his shot off much quicker, as it takes him far too long to square up and shoot.

A lot of his defensive problems could improve now that he has a full season under it's belt. It is often difficult for rookies to adjust defensively to the NBA game, and Keef was no different. Morris said he intends to get stronger during the offseason and he feels that will help him hold his own better defensively.

However, it is difficult to be disappointed in his season considering the circumstances. He was the 13th pick in a weak draft. He was thrust into the rotation with no training camp or Summer League or really any offseason preparation to speak of. Morris also played twice as many games as he did last year at Kansas, and by his own admission he tired out both mentally and physically and hit the rookie wall. Toss in a couple of illnesses and it wasn't an easy year for Markieff.

Overall, I'd give him a solid B.

Check out Bright Side of the Sun's Youtube channel for Morris's exit interview (skip to the 6:15 mark to hear Kieff).

Just for fun, let's take a look at some other power forwards who were drafted in the first round last year and how they compare to Kieff.

Pick Player Team Minutes Per Game Points Per Game Rebounds Per Game Field Goal Percentage
2 Derrick Williams MIN 21.5 8.8 4.7 41.2
4 Tristan Thompson CLE 23.7 8.2 6.5 43.9
7 Jan Vesely WAS 18.9 4.7 4.4 53.7
8 Bismack Biyombo CHA 23.1 5.2 5.8 46.4
13 Markieff Morris PHX 19.5 7.4 4.4 39.9
14 Marcus Morris HOU 7.4 2.4 0.9 29.6
22 Kenneth Faried DEN 22.5 10.2 7.7 58.6
27 JaJuan Johnson BOS 8.3 3.2 1.6 44.6

Looking at these numbers, the Manimal is a beast of a rookie (I guess you were right Beavis), while everyone else was somewhat disappointing (this was a really weak class). Kieff's numbers are comparable to or better than most of the other bigs drafted in the first round.

What grade would you give Keef?

  235 votes | Results

Recapping the Suns season with plenty of talk about the future of Steve Nash, the decision not to extend Alvin Gentry, and some quick thoughts about the NBA Playoffs.

Hosted by Bryan Gibberman and Seth Pollack and presented by Arizona Sports 620 and SB Nation Arizona.

Subscribe on iTunes or stream online after the jump.


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