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Phoenix Suns Morris twins are so much better together than apart

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While both players have individually shown their value in the NBA as important role players, Marcus and Markieff Morris are even better when they share the court together.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

A bit lost in all the discussion of point guards, the Phoenix Suns pairing of twins Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris on the same team is a low-key feel good story.

And twins they are. Nearly identical in every way, even down to their matching tattoos; best friends to boot. They are so close that this summer, the Phoenix Suns' Lon Babby initiated a unique contract negotiation tactic by negotiating the total dollars for the two of them first ($52 million total, $13 million per year for 4 years), and then asking them to split it. They did, and they are grateful for the chance to play together for years to come.

Markieff Morris is now putting up career highs in nearly every category (15.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.3 steals in 30 minutes per game). He is one of only nine NBA players with such production this season in points, rebounds, steals and assists, with only four of those being big men.

Marcus is improving his shooting percentages across the board while providing about 10, 4 and 1.5 in 24 minutes of play. And both are providing the Suns steady leadership and production while the rest of the team swirls around them.

The brothers are quiet, at least in public and to the media. They don't like being surrounded by reporters if they can avoid it, and they don't look for attention.

They just go about their business, which is playing basketball to the best of their abilities. While both were born with ideal height, weight and athleticism to make the league, neither was blessed with that supreme physical skill to become an All-Star without an incredible work ethic.

Neither has Kevin Durant's shooting touch, Anthony Davis' length, DeMarcus Cousins' girth, Kenneth Faried's rebounding or Tyson Chandler's rim protection skills.

They both come in at about 6'9"-6'10" and 230-235 pounds. Keef is a bit taller (1 inch) and thicker (5-10 pounds). Marcus is bit more nimble on the perimeter. Keef bangs a bit harder in the paint, while Marcus has a quicker trigger on jump shots.

Both players needed to develop their NBA niche since joining a league where "tweeners" often find themselves on the outside looking in at the NBA. While doing so, each has improved every year in the league, a feat not approached by many NBA players who are content with "who they are".

Keef developed his midrange game, figuring out ways to create enough separation to get his shot off against just about anyone. Check out his shot chart the season.

markieff-shot-chart

He's just killing it from midrange this year and in the clutch.

According to basketball-reference.com, Keef shoots better in the 4th quarter than any other quarter (56%), though he's only 3-17 on threes in the 4th even after last night's dagger is factored in. Give him a midrange, though, and he's money.

Marcus Morris is much more of a perimeter threat. He came into the league with comfort in the midrange as well as behind the three-point line, but has migrated to a heavy preponderance of threes over twos. That progression was partially developed as a way to create an NBA niche and partially to find a way to play alongside his brother without clogging the passing and driving lanes.

marcus-shot-chart

He still shoots twos, but has found a real niche on the deep perimeter in the Suns offense. In the past, Marcus would dribble himself into contested two-pointers, but he's been a much more willing passer this year when he's not open.

On the defensive end, neither is a DPOY candidate, but both have improved in that area this season as well. They are making the right rotations more often and shutting down their man in one-on-one situations more often as well.

Better together

And as you might expect, Keef is a much better shooter when his brother Marcus is on the floor. But you might not have expected just HOW MUCH better he is with Marcus. Keef shoots a whopping 55% when Marcus is on the floor, including 39% of his threes. Without Marcus, Keef shoots 46% from the floor, including 29% of his threes. From every distance, in every situation, Keef is makes 10% more shots with Marcus out there than without. Click that link. Mind. Blown.

The same is also true of Marcus with and without Keef. Mook makes 49% of his shots with Keef on the floor, including 46% of his threes, versus 42% without (37% of his threes).

They are both better in the final minutes with each other than without. They are both better in close games together than without.

Great leaders by example

Not much is known, publicly, about the Morris brothers leadership skills among the team. They are quiet and go about their business.

But in a league where players spend as much time worrying about whether their name is called prior to tipoff or not, the Morris brothers have both shown ultimate professionalism when shuffled between the bench and the starting lineup.

Last year, Markieff entered the season as the starter but lost his starting spot on opening night via suspension. Channing Frye stepped in for a Suns win that night, and went on to start every game while Keef came off the bench. Keef never once complained, proceeding to put up 'Sixth Man of the Year' numbers with 13 points and 6 rebounds per game (eventually placing fourth in that voting).

This year, Marcus began the year in the starting lineup (also via suspension, this time of P.J. Tucker) but moved back to the bench when the Suns just weren't getting the win-loss results they wanted. While at least one other Suns player was worried about starting/finishing, Marcus never once complained and has thrived in both roles.

At this point, Marcus has had 18 starts versus 19 games off the bench. You tell me how that's worked out for him.

marcus-splits

Despite his disappointment of being moved from the starting lineup, he's actually gotten better as the season progressed with the same usage rate and minutes. I wouldn't conclude that Marcus is better off the bench. I would simply conclude that he took ownership of his game and found a way to succeed, while his coach has played him just as many minutes anyway.

The Phoenix Suns have provided the Morris twins what they wanted - a chance to play together. The twins have rewarded the Suns by getting better every season.

And when you put them together, they have proven that Wondertwin powers really DO activate.