Phoenix Suns Strike Gold With 2011 NBA Draft Pick Markieff Morris

The Phoenix Suns haven't had a lot of success in the NBA Draft since they took Amare Stoudemire with the ninth-overall pick in 2002. They haven't had a lot of lottery picks in that time either with only Luol Deng (draft day trade), Earl Clark (traded) and Robin Lopez being selected in the top half of the draft until 2011.

This summer was the first chance for Lance Blanks and Lon Babby leave their mark on the team via the draft. They picked Markieff Morris from Kansas with the 13th pick, a decision that brought solid "B's" in the various draft grades.

So far, however, Morris has exceeded all expectations and currently is the third highest-ranked rookie in his class with a PER of 22.24. It's only five games into his pro career, but Morris is proving to be everything the Suns hoped and more.

Offensively, Morris is already the Suns best big in the post with an outstanding conversion rate of .700 on his 12 post-up possessions as charted by Synergy Sports Tech. But what makes Morris so special offensively is his ability to also stretch the floor. He's shooting 50 percent on his jump shots and is an impressive 6-12 from three.

The one thing Morris doesn't bring, or at least hasn't yet, is the ability to finish on the pick and roll. He's only been used on two possessions with one resulting in a jump shot. On the other, he slipped the pick, caught the pass from Nash and had the ball striped in the paint.

It will be interesting to see if Morris can develop this part of this game. Playing more minutes with Nash will certainly help, but he's clearly no Amare Stoudemire. On the flip side, Morris is a far better post player and spot up shooter than Amare was as a young player even though the spectacular dunks aren't part of the repertoire.

Morris has already proven to be an effective rebounder as well. His rebound rate of 14.4 is second-highest on the team behind only Channing Frye who's started the season making up for his poor shooting by attacking the glass hard.

Defense is where the rookie is struggling most. He's prone to commit fouls and has some work to do before he adapts to the NBA game. The effort, smarts and desire are there so there's no reason to think that Morris won't improve as he gets more experience. In the mean time, his versatile offense and work on the boards should continue to earn him minutes. His twin brother Marcus, meanwhile, has been sent to the Houston Rockets D-league affiliate to work on his game.

Overall, while it's still very early, the Morris draft pick looks like a fantastic decision for the Suns.

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