Marcus Morris' 2014-15 season was filled with some good, plenty of bad, and way too much foolishness.
After the best year of his young career in 2013-14, Marcus Morris entered the 2014-15 season with increased expectations following a contract extension with the Phoenix Suns. President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby gave Marcus and Morris a $52 million sum and told them to split it however they'd like over four years.
The twins decided that Markieff's official salary would be $8 million per year while Marcus would earn $5 million. If I can be allowed a tangent here, this is how I like to imagine that conversation between the Morrii went last September:
Markieff: Hey bro, how should we split the $52 million Lon gave us?
Marcus: I mean, we've called halfsies on everything all our lives. I think it makes sense to split it down the middle, right? $6.5 million a year for each of us?
Markieff: I guess. I got no problem splitting the money in half but I kind of think our official salaries should maybe reflect our respective market values, no?
Marcus: Come on, man, I think our market values are pretty equal.
Markieff: I don't know, Mook. I played more minutes last year, scored more, shot better, rebounded better, passed better and probably defended better. I think I'm a $10 million a year kind of guy.
Marcus: But, bro...#FOE.
Markieff: Alright, fine. I love you bro, but I think you're about 60% of the player I am. So how about you get $5 million a year and I get $8 million? All you need to do to earn it is to make sure your technical foul count for the season is 60% of mine.
Marcus: Ok. Deal. Now let's go have a hell of a season filled with on-court tantrums and off-court legal issues!
Pretty much mirroring the trajectory of the entire team, Marcus Morris' 2014-15 season was an up and down one. It began well but ultimately spiraled downwards as the year progressed. In the end, it left Marcus not too far from where he was at the start of the season—at the footpath of NBA mediocrity.
In the 2014-15 season, Marcus Morris set a career high in minutes and games started with 25.2 minutes per game and 35 starts.
There wasn't too much else that fell under the "good" category.
Thanks to P.J. Tucker's super extreme summer, Marcus Morris began the season as a starter and hit 5 threes on his way to 21 points against the Lakers on opening night (unfortunately, he would only eclipse the 20 point benchmark four more times the rest of the season, but more on that later). He went on to shoot the three-ball very well in the first couple months of the season, hitting at a 44% clip through 2014. Despite his regression in the latter half of the season, Mook's 35.8% shooting from beyond the arc for the year was the highest of all qualified players still in a Suns uniform at the end of the season.
In terms of improvements from the previous season, one noticeable development was Marcus' one-on-one defense, which he addressed as an area of focus over the previous offseason.
When it comes to defense, Marcus can be described as fairly average, with one-on-one defense being a strength. There wasn't much of an overall defensive impact made by Marcus—on average, opposing players shot about 0.5% worse against him than they normally did. While he isn't good at defending anywhere near the paint, he made a noticeable improvement in his perimeter defense. On shots greater than 15 ft., players' field goal percentage was about 2.3% worse against Marcus than normal.
This video from our own Sam Cooper is a great example of Marcus' improved one-on-one defense.
The bad news is that Marcus Morris' 2014-15 campaign can be considered somewhat of a step back for him. His field goal percentage, three point percentage, free throw percentage, points per 36 minutes, win shares and offensive rating all fell from 2013-14.
Marcus, who is generally regarded as a good shooter and the better long-distance marksman among the Morris twins, had a very pedestrian year in that department. In fact, his 35.8% from three is his worst mark since his rookie season. It's also right at the NBA average.
That word – average – is a pretty accurate summation of Marcus Morris at this point of his career. Across the board, his numbers and his game don't reveal any outstanding qualities that can't be replaced by other similar players. Outside of his three point shot (when it's falling, at least), Marcus' biggest strength lies in being efficient in inefficiency. He's a good mid-range shooter and remarkably, he's great at hitting tough, contested shots. He shoots 38.6% from the field on catch-and-shoot shots and 43.3% on pull-ups.
His shot chart reveals that he's a good mid-range shooter, a good three-point shooter from the right elbow and corner, a poor three-point shooter from the left elbow and corner and above the break, and a very poor finisher at the rim.
Other than his one or two-dribble pull-up, Marcus is not a good shot creator and as his assist rate shows, he's even worse when creating for others. And while his mid-range shot is good, it's not quite good enough to make up for his other offensive deficiencies, like in Markieff's case.
In order for Marcus to take the next step offensively, he'll need to be more consistent as a three-point shooter, become a much better finisher, and draw more fouls. His in-between game is better than average but to really have a positive impact on the floor, he needs to take improve his true shooting percentage from a mediocre 52% to at least 55%.
In addition to minutes, starts and raw points per game, Marcus Morris set another career-high in 2014-15: technicals. Although this was yet another category in which Mook trailed his brother, he was nonetheless impressive in racking up the techs. Of the top 20 technical foul-getters of the 2014-15 season, Marcus averaged the third-lowest minutes per game, trailing only O.J. Mayo and Kevin Garnett. Kudos to Marcus for really making the most out of his minutes.
The ugliest of Marcus' 9 technicals was one he earned in a win against the Timberwolves on January 7, after which he proceeded to take out his frustrations on Coach Jeff Hornacek in front of a national TV audience (we'll get to more on Marcus' tendency to take his anger out on the wrong people later).
The end of the season left a bad taste in fans' mouths for a variety of reasons but one concerning story that will linger into the offseason and possible even into next year is the investigation and arraignment of the Morris twins for a possible assault. The Morrii have pleaded not guilty to the charges but this could potentially be the latest display in a pattern of concerning behavior from the twins, as our own Dave King laid out. But for now, we'll let the judicial process dictate what happens next before judging any more on this particular instance.
Amongst all this foolishness, lest we forget what may be Marcus' worst offense of all – the event that gave birth to this season's motif of "foolishness."
On January 3, Bright Side of the Sun blogger and depressed Knicks fan who takes solace in the failures of other franchises, Bryan Gibberman, wrote an article arguing that the Suns may benefit in the long-term by giving their young players more minutes and building for next season instead of fighting for the playoffs. Although hindsight lends itself in favor of Gibby's argument, his article received a lot of (mostly negative) attention at the time. In fact, Marcus Morris apparently took the time to read it and tweeted out his one-word review of Gibberman's piece:
Promptly after this, Marcus found and blocked ME of all people on Twitter, despite my stance against Gibby's article and all things Gibby in general.
It was all fun and games for a while – the Suns won a few games right after Marcus blocked me and it was hypothesized that Mook's removal of me from his online world as somewhat of an addition by subtraction. Despite deep feelings of betrayal and shock, I put up with it because the Suns were winning.
Suns move to 1-0 since Marcus Morris blocked @sreekyshooter on Twitter— Scott Howard (@ScottHoward42) January 5, 2015
Also, since Marcus Morris blocked @sreekyshooter the Suns are 2-0.— Scott Chasen (@SChasenKU) January 7, 2015
But alas, karmic retribution caught up with Marcus and the his season took a dip soon after. Let's take a look atMarcus' season splits before he blocked me and after:
|Pts/36 min||Rebs/36 min||Asts/36 min||Blks/36 min||FG%||3pt%||FT%||TS%||ORTG||DRTG||Avg. +/-|
|Pre-unfair blocking of Sreekar||15.2||5.9||2.1||.4||.45||.44||.67||.55||112||110||+1.5|
|Post-unfair blocking of Sreekar||14.7||7.3||2.5||.2||.42||.31||.61||.50||102||105||-2.7|
I think numbers speak for themselves. Following the "foolishness" event, Marcus was much less efficient and impactful across the board. The Suns, who were 19-16 before said foolishness, went 20-27 after. The unfortunate Twitter-blocking of an innocent bystander and Marcus Morris' on-court performance are clearly directly related and there are no other elements in play here. This is an inarguable fact.
Marcus Morris will be 26 at the start of next season. I think he can still improve his game and become a better, more consistent role player in the league but that window of expected growth is closing. For now, he is to me the definition of the average NBA player – mediocre in a variety of different aspects, but not exceptional in any one skill in particular. Fortunately for the Suns, he is also paid like an average player; even more fortunately, his presence on the roster allowed them to sign his brother – whose value on the open market this summer (notwithstanding legal troubles) would have likely eclipsed $12 million with the rising cap – at a dramatic discount.
However, a team really should not have to deal with attitude problems from a player of Mook's caliber. To his credit, Marcus did apologize immediately after his very public blowup at Jeff Hornacek. Let's hope he doesn't create as many of these distractions next season.
Beyond this, my biggest problem with Marcus Morris is that he plays the same position as T.J. Warren. Given that Marcus is a very average player and I don't really expect significant improvement from him, I'd like to see a lot of his minutes given to Warren. But can the Suns trade Marcus while retaining Markieff? I'm not sure they can but I would not be surprised to see them explore their options this summer.
Heading into next season, Marcus really needs to become a more consistent outside shooter and get to the line more (and improve his foul shooting). But any and all improvement can only begin with him fixing his gravest mistake by unblocking me on Twitter (and hopefully blocking Gibberman).
FINAL GRADE: F for Foolishness
Ok, that's probably unfair. Just kidding, Marcus (please don't fight me).