Report Cards: Marcus Morris

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Reunited with his twin brother Markieff just over a year ago, Marcus Morris turned the corner in his third NBA season, setting career highs in a slew of categories, and becoming a key contributor on a Suns second unit that proved to be one of the team's strengths.

When Marcus Morris was traded from the Houston Rockets to the Phoenix Suns last February for a second round pick, his career was at a crossroads. Despite modest success with the Rockets last season, they traded the #14 overall pick of the 2011 draft for a mere second rounder, allowing Marcus the opportunity to play with his brother Markieff in Phoenix.

Between the poor team chemistry and coaching change, the environment on last season's Suns wasn't conducive to high performance from any player. Marcus was no exception, shooting only 41% from the field and 31% from 3 in his 21 games after the trade, even ending up in interim coach Lindsey Hunter's doghouse for a spell.

Under new head coach Jeff Hornacek, this season was a completely different story for the 24-year old Marcus, as he enjoyed career highs in PPG (9.7), 3-point% (.381), PER (14.8), win shares/48 minutes (.111) and minutes played (22.0/game) in playing all 82 games and scoring in double figures 42 times.

Essentially, Marcus improved from being a fringe rotation guy to being a player who was a solid contributor off the bench, and could probably start for some teams in the league. Because there was so much improvement from a handful of other Suns, League MIP Goran Dragic, Gerald Green, P.J. Tucker and his brother Markieff most prominent among them, Marcus' major steps forward as a player appear to have been overlooked a bit.

That's a shame because Marcus deserves a lot of credit for his achievements this season, and not just for his individual play. By their accounts, the presence of Marcus is also partially responsible for helping his brother Markieff to display more focus and consistency during his breakthrough season.

Marcus' primary role on offense was as a 3-point shooter, as 40% of his FGAs were from behind the arc, but Marcus was also occasionally effective from the post and with his mid-range shooting. That 3-point shooting was needed on a Suns second unit which didn't have much outside of Marcus and Green, and injuries forced Green into the starting lineup 49 times.

Some key stats for Marcus, and rank among Suns regular rotation players:

  • 15.9 points/36 minutes, 5th among Suns
  • .381 3-point%, 4th among Suns
  • 6.4 rebounds/36 minutes, 5th among rotation players (not including Len, Kravtsov, Randolph and Christmas)
  • .111 win shares/48 mins, 6th among Suns
  • 14.8 PER, 5th among Suns
  • .552 TS%, 6th among Suns
Not a bad season's work for a player who was acquired for a pick which ended up being 34th (Isaiah Canaan) in last year's draft. Other players the Suns might have taken with that pick include Ray McCallum, Tony Mitchell and Jeff Withey. Marcus' salary this season was just under $2M and will be a shade under $3M next season.

Lesser Brother?

From Robin Lopez to Taylor Griffin to Miles Plumlee, we Suns fans like to joke about the Suns regularly ending up with the "lesser brother" of players. For awhile, it looked as if this wouldn't be a factor with this Morris brothers when they both disappointed early in their careers. Now, the Suns have both of them, and they each showed dramatic improvement this season.

How much of that improvement is due to them playing together, as they say they've always wanted to do? What happens when the Suns possibly want to keep one but maybe not the other in the future? If another team inquires about a trade for one, do they need to trade them both? Assuming the Suns want to re-sign them both, how would those contract negotiations work?

It's a unique situation, and creates some interesting complications. The bond Marcus and Markieff have is one most of us will never be able to fully understand. They've been closest friends for their entire lives, share facial hairstyles, tattoos, and live together. They aren't your usual set of brothers. For that reason, I favor the Suns either keeping both, or trading both, unless that proves to be impossible in the face of other priorities.

For Marcus' share of the Morris twins improvement, and for his individual performance, I give him a B+. He's a solid, consistent player who does several things capably. Not a star, maybe not even an eventual starter, but he produced at least as well as Jared Dudley did in his time with the Suns, and well exceeded expectations.

All statistics cited are courtesy of BasketballReference.com. Thanks to Sean Sullivan for "The Silent Assassin"nickname.
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