Start keeping watch for who will finish the season as the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year.
Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris capped a torrid personal 20-game stretch Sunday with a 25-point, eight-rebound performance in a 127-120 comeback road win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. He shot a blistering 10-for-13 from the floor in the pivotal win and made all three of his 3-point attempts.
His stellar scoring output Sunday marked the 19th time in the last 20 games he's scored in double-figures off the bench -- including the last nine in a row. In the only game in that span where he failed to reach double-digits in scoring, Morris finished with nine on March 4 against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Three of Morris' nine double-doubles on the year have come in the last 20 games. During this stretch, he has put up numbers of 16.9 points and 6.3 rebounds in 29.3 minutes per contest. The third-year forward hasn't always been able to will Phoenix to victory during his recent run, however, as the Suns have gone 11-9 over the last 20.
Morris' overall season averages are 13.8 points and 5.9 rebounds in 26.1 minutes per game -- all career highs. He is also shooting 48.6 percent from the field on the year -- a dramatic improvement over his first two seasons in the league, in which he shot 39.9 and 40.7 percent from the floor, respectively.
All that adds up to a player who has emerged as the Suns' No. 1 frontcourt scoring option. When the 6-foot-10 forward finishes with 20 points or more -- as he did Sunday -- the Suns have an 11-4 record in those contests.
Morris' effectiveness, unfortunately, seems to have come at the expense of the player ahead of him in the lineup, Channing Frye, who is averaging 11.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 28.4 minutes on the season. Frye has failed to reach double-figures in 11 of his last 16 games, including five of the last six. The 6-foot-11 big man's numbers are just 8.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game in 26.2 minutes during the last 16 outings. He has also hit just 28.8 percent of his 3-point shots in that span.
With little doubt, Morris is in the running for the Sixth Man of the Year trophy. On Feb. 27, ESPN's Marc Stein wrote that Chicago's Taj Gibson was the frontrunner in this category, but Morris was a top mention in the article.
The Kansas product has played 13 games since that time, and his 2013-14 numbers have since risen to be quite similar to those of Gibson -- who is averaging 13.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 47.9 percent shooting while coming off the bench for the Bulls 62 times in the 70 games he's played this year. Morris has come off the bench -- behind Frye -- in all of his 69 appearances in 2013-14.