Markieff Morris has been a different player for the Phoenix Suns this season, and especially so since the All-Star break.
In 20 games since then, Morris is averaging 17.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. He’s shooting 54.3 percent from the field.
Those are numbers befitting a former lottery pick, which Morris was, though prior to this season many wondered if the former Kansas Jayhawk was capable of playing at that kind of level on a consistent basis.
Morris’ season averages of 13.8 points and 5.9 rebounds in a bench role have him in the running for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award, but at this rate he won’t be long for the bench.
“I’d imagine that he will want to start eventually,” Suns GM Ryan McDonough told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday. “I think from a team perspective we want all our guys to be unselfish, but we want them to be starters or think they’re starters.”
Morris has started 49 times in his career, with varying degrees of success.
But whether it’s because of his mentality, the players around him or just the natural progression of a young player, the Markieff Morris of today is a completely different player than the last one to have his name among the first five on the floor.
“If Markieff keeps progressing like this I’d imagine he’d be a starter at some point in his NBA career,” McDonough added. “I think it’d be hard to envision him not being a starter if he keeps putting up these numbers and playing so well.”
Until that time comes, though, Morris will continue to come off the bench for one of the most surprising teams in the league. It’s not as if he’s not on the court much, as his 26.2 minutes per game rank sixth on the team — ahead of starting center Miles Plumlee.
And as anyone who watches the NBA would tell you, it’s not even so much about who starts games but rather who finishes them. Lately, Morris has been finishing them.
“Not only has he been on the court late, we’ve run a lot of stuff for him,” McDonough said. “We go to him in the post and run a lot of pick-and-rolls where he’s the screener and either the roller or the pop guy with Goran (Dragic) or Eric (Bledsoe) coming off.
“I think that shows Coach Hornacek and our staff’s confidence in Markieff and he’s certainly rewarded us by being very efficient and not only scoring, but making plays for others down the stretch as well.”