It's no surprise that the Phoenix Suns embrace their identity of being an undersized, fast-paced team, who are primarily driven by the play of their guards.
It's also no surprise that the Suns are banking their success this season on what they have purposely created to be the deepest back court in the NBA.
The back court trio, and 1-2-3-4 punch of Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, Isaiah Thomas, and Gerald Green may very well comprise not only the deepest, but also the fastest, most aggressive, and highest scoring back-court in the league when it's all said and done this season...time will tell.
However, one position does not a team make.
This season, the Suns will be depending on their big men to provide the defense and rebounding in the paint on defense, and also to help spread the floor on offense to make their system work.
Here's a look at who the Suns will be using at the power forward position this season, and how they will be depended upon.
Markieff Morris, 6'10" 245 lbs, PF/C
2013/14 Per-Game Averages: 26.6 min, 13.8 pts, 6.1 rbs, 1.8 ast, 48.6 FG%, 31.5 3FG%
Markieff Morris was one of the most pleasant surprises for the Suns last season. After a somewhat disappointing start overall to his NBA career in Phoenix, after being drafted with the 13th pick in 2011, Markieff finally became the player the Suns had always envisioned.
Phoenix made a trade with the Houston Rockets before the trade deadline in the 2012-13 season, in order to bring Keef's twin Marcus to the Suns. This was a low-risk gamble (a 2nd round draft pick) that the Suns were hoping would pay off by increasing the productivity of both players. It did.
Markieff emerged as a completely different player last season, stringing together consecutive games with efficient play on both ends of the court. Keef transformed his game from the ineffective stretch four he had become, to a highly-skilled power forward who could bang inside, and score at a very efficient rate from mid-range. Not only that, his defense improved, as did his rebounding. He suddenly became a complete player that the Suns could depend on, and played almost as many minutes off the bench as Channing Frye did as the starter.
This season, I expect more of the same from Markieff. With the Suns committing to him and Marcus long term, Keef has all of the reasons to continue his success. Although the loss of Channing Frye has left the Suns searching for the player to help fill that role, I am hoping that Keef continues to play as a traditional power forward, or even filling in as a center this season...but not as a stretch four. Markieff has shown he is able to shoot the long ball effectively when he is selective in doing so, but not as the main focus of his game.
Anthony Tolliver 6'9" 240 lbs, PF
2013/14 Per-Game Averages: 20.3 min, 6.1 pts, 2.6 rbs, 42.0 FG%, 41.3 3FG%
Tolliver was signed by the Suns this off-season once Phoenix decided to let Channing Frye go to the Orlando Magic, as a hopeful replacement for the stretch-four position that the Suns depend on to help spread the floor and give the guards room to operate.
Anthony Tolliver is a career journeyman who is entering his seventh year in the NBA, after playing on the same amount of teams. However, like Gerald Green proved last season, that doesn't preclude him from becoming a major contributor on the Suns this season, and perhaps even finding a home in here in Phoenix.
What Tolliver brings to the Suns is accurate and efficient shooting from beyond the arc. But more importantly than that, his ability to shoot the ball opens up lanes for the guards to drive in and penetrate the defense, where they can either attack the rim themselves, or find the open man to pass it to.
Anthony certainly understands his role on the Suns, and strikes me as an intelligent player who knows how to use his skills and his veteran presence to benefit the team. He seems genuinely excited for an opportunity to play in a fast-tempo, high-scoring offense like the Suns utilize, and appears ready to step right in and begin contributing immediately.
I expect that Tolliver will end up in the starting unit once the regular season begins, because of his unique skill-set as a stretch-four that is a necessity for the Suns' offense to operate effectively. Although Markieff may be the better overall player, I think Tolliver's ability to spread the floor and be ready to catch-and-shoot the pass behind the arc will best complement Dragic and Bledsoe. Not only that, I think this also helps bolster the second unit even more, allowing both of the Morris twins to play together and help provide additional scoring and defense while the starters are resting.
Marcus Morris, 6'9" 235 lbs, SF/PF
2013/14 Per-Game Averages: 22.0 min, 9.7 pts, 3.9 rbs, 1.1 ast, 44.2 FG%, 38.1 3FG%
Marcus has been a different player since coming to the Suns. Just as with Markieff, Marcus also experienced a resurgence once re-joining his twin brother in Phoenix. The Suns obviously believe in Marcus enough to keep him around with his brother for the long term, and they will be counting on him to be a big part of the team this season.
One of the big positives about Marcus's game is that he has the skill set to play both the three and the four. Just as Markieff is better suited as a four where he can use his strength in and around the basket, Marcus is best suited as a three where he can shoot the ball outside and use his ball-handling ability to get open.
However, the Suns already have P.J. Tucker and a promising rookie in T.J. Warren who will also see minutes at small forward, so Marcus will probably see a lot of minutes at the four this season as well. Not only that, but when the Suns decide to go small, Markieff will switch to the five and Marcus will go to the four, where both of them are more than serviceable options and can take advantage of the bigger, slower players guarding them.
I expect that Marcus will be a major contributor on the Suns team this season. While I still think he will see the majority of his minutes backing up the small forward position, I do expect that he will see a substantial amount of minutes at the power forward position. It will be up to Marcus how much or how little he plays at the three or the four, but with his ability to shoot the ball and his versatility as a forward, he gives the Suns another offensive threat at either position.