Markeiff Morris’ poor play to start the season has sparked much debate among Phoenix Suns fans.
His spot in the starting lineup, as our own Bryan Gibberman said, should stay that way and it would be a “panic, short-sighted move,” to remove Morris.
There’s no doubt about the abysmal start to the season Morris has had and the stats show that.
The problem for Morris and the Suns is the great level of play they have received from Jon Leuer and Mirza Teletovic.
Both Leuer and Teletovic were oversights in the summer. With a gaping hole at power forward off the bench, the Suns signed Teletovic to a one-year deal very late in the free agency process and Leuer was acquired for a second-round pick.
To start the season, both power forwards have been bargains. Teletovic is shooting 46 percent from 3-point range and Leuer is at 47 percent. They both have a positive net rating, meaning that their team’s offensive rating is higher than their defensive rating when they are on the court.
Leuer’s impressed with his physicality that one can assume he acquired playing in Memphis and practicing against the likes of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. His 16.1 percent rebounding percentage — the percentage of rebounds he grabs while he is on the court — is almost five percent higher than Morris’.
The main effect Leuer and Teletovic have on the floor is spacing. The offensive ratings for the two are 105.1 and 109.7, respectively, which both easily beat the team’s offensive rating of 102.5.
With a point guard like Eric Bledsoe who is such a threat to attack the basket, Leuer and Teletovic offer defenses difficult choices. If they decide to be aggressive and stop Bledsoe from getting to the rim, this happens:
The defender, Reggie Jackson, is either going to have to foul Bledsoe or Bledsoe is going to score. Ersan Ilyasova realizes this, goes to stop Bledsoe and then ducks his head as he realizes who he left open.
So what if you can somehow stop Bledsoe from scoring at the rim and getting a good look for Leuer? This happens:
Despite the numbers, Teletovic is the much better shooter and a wide open 3-point shot for him is a gift.
This is the threat of playing Leuer at center, as he opens up Teletovic at power forward and playing a deadly shooter like Devin Booker or Brandon Knight at the other guard position makes it even more lethal.
The lineups featuring both Teletovic and Leuer have done very well to start the season offensively. The lineup combinations featuring both that have played at least ten minutes this season have offensive ratings of 105.7, 130, 137.4, and 119.
This efficiency doesn’t always have to include those two, either. The effect they have on the spacing is clear and head coach Jeff Hornacek used some sets in Detroit to make the defense do the impossible.
Teletovic and Leuer are in the corners and Booker is on the wing. Those are three elite shooters that you cannot leave open and the intent of this play is most likely to get one of them an open shot. Both Booker and Leuer’s defenders do not move an inch. Marcus Morris does the best as he can on the top of the screen and Andre Drummond has to choose between a Bledsoe layup or a wide open P.J. Tucker three. Bledsoe takes an extra step to give Tucker the most space possible and hits him for the three.
Leuer’s rebounding rate and physical play make him an option at center and his ability to take opponents off the dribble like this opens up even more possibilities.
That will be a bucket against any center in the league and that’s another aspect that makes Leuer unique.
Whether they are starting or not, as Gibberman noted, they should come in stretches and stay around the 16-20 MPG mark both are currently at.
It has to be said that the aforementioned lineups with the two together also have poor defensive ratings of 125.3, 123.2, 145.8 and 116.6.
Those numbers are more bad than the offensive numbers are good and are why the duo is such a risk. The lineup combination that includes the duo that has played the most minutes (24) also has the lowest rebounding percentage of any other lineup that has played at least ten minutes at 39 percent.
The bottom line with Leuer and Teletovic is that they both provide great play on offense and, as the Pistons game showed, it has the ability to take over a game on that end. However, they both pose serious issues in other areas of the basketball court that would not be sustainable over 25-30 minutes of play as the Pistons’ comeback showed.
Still, the two provide the Suns with some much-needed firepower off the bench and most importantly, perimeter shooting. That will continue to aid the team despite its other flaws. That’s something the Suns should be very thankful for after the minuscule price they paid for both and is even more of a luxury if Morris’ struggles continue.
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