The Phoenix Suns have been very good to the Morris twins. When Ryan McDonough was hired during the 2013 offseason, some major house-cleaning was inevitable. When a new general manager comes aboard to spearhead a rebuilding effort, they tend to start completely over with a new foundation consisting of "their guys".
The Morris twins had definitely contributed to the awful stank of the 2012/13 season. Markieff clanged his way to a dreadful season in which he shot 40.7% from the field, partly due to the team attempting to use him as a floor-stretcher (which he is not). Marcus arrived late to the horror show but quickly found himself in interim coach Lindsey Hunter's doghouse.
These are the kind of players that get thrown out with the bathwater when a team is rebuilding.
Rather shocking it was, then, when that summer the Suns decided to pick up their team options for the 2014/15 season. The brothers rewarded the team's faith by putting up career seasons. Markieff became a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year with his inside/outside game, and Marcus proved to be a useful bench scorer and perimeter shooter.
Again, the Suns threw the twins a bone and offered them new contracts with a year still remaining on their rookie deals. Thus, since reuniting in Phoenix they haven't had to face the prospect of splitting up in free agency, and both have cemented rotation spots in this young roster.
Not a bad deal for them, considering the climate of the current NBA.
But this season, the twins' behavior has become problematic and their impact on the court has been questionable at times, especially with Markieff's scoring efficiency suffering a steep drop. With both entering the first year of their four-year contracts next season, how well will they fit with this organization?
Let's start with their play on the court. The recent wave of analytics has finally convinced the NBA that long two-pointers are the worst shot to take on the floor. They carry a high degree of difficulty and very little chance of drawing a foul. While Marcus' scoring efficiency has essentially stayed static (he's drawing less fouls but shooting better from 3), Markieff has been a long-two machine and has seen his efficiency plummet as a result.
His per-game averages of 15.1 points on 46.2% from the field look decent enough, but a deeper look into his numbers paints a different picture. Kieff's True Shooting Percentage (TS%), which accounts for any extra points gained from freethrows and/or 3-pointers, is a mere .519, down from a healthy .562 the year prior.
He is one of only three power forwards, along with Boston's Jared Sullinger and that antithesis of efficiency Josh Smith, who take at least 12 shots from the field per game with a TS% under .520.
Charlotte center Al Jefferson, who is suffering a career-worst shooting season, makes the list as well.
While Kieff mixed a solid inside game with his midrange touch last season, this time around he has fallen in deep love with his jumper, which has resulted in a Freethrow Attempt Rate (FTr) of .193 -- meaning that he takes less than two freethrows for every ten shots he attempts from the field.
In 2013/14 his FTr was a robust .387.
Since both the brothers are lukewarm defenders and poor rebounders, simply put they have to score quite well to leave a positive impact on the floor. Marcus' numbers reflect nicely (.554 TS% and .405 3P%), but once the eye-test is thrown in we have to account for his ball-stopping tendencies and poor shot selection.
Much like his fellow bench chucker Gerald Green, if he's in a groove then it's all gravy. If he's not, he can kill a rally just as effectively as he sparks one.
All nitpicking aside, however, the twins are still young and have plenty of time to refine their games. I doubt they'll ever be staunch defenders or even capable rebounders, but their offensive games figure to still have plenty of room for tweaking.
As it is already, Markieff in particular is -- along with Eric Bledsoe -- the only "go get us a bucket" guy on the team for late-game situations, and has performed admirably in this role.
He also has improved his passing this year, averaging a career-high 2.2 APG, and like most of the team his efficiency took a hit when Channing Frye departed.
Unfortunately, the Suns have dealt with considerable turbulence off the court this season and the Morris twins are often at the epicenter.
There was the slew of technical fouls that plagued the team in the season's earlygoing, leading to coach Jeff Hornacek's radical automatic benching policy. Naturally, the hot-tempered twins were the most frequent offenders in this department.
There was Marcus having an absolute screaming hissy in the face of his coach because ... he wanted to fight Thaddeus Young?
There was an assault charge that presumably is still ongoing which named the Morris twins as suspects.
And now we have the twins (mainly Markieff) calling out Suns fans for the cavernous atmosphere at US Talking Airways Resort Arena following a historically bad performance Saturday night versus the San Antonio Spurs. Dave King and Bryan Gibberman already covered this excellently, and whether or not the twins were in the wrong by making these statements, they were correct in their assessment -- the home crowds suck in Phoenix.
However, the criticism of the fans rang especially hollow considering that the Suns had just pinched off the most rancid nugget of professional basketball I can remember witnessing in a long time.
At least we can all be assured that they were only speaking to the fans out of love and meant in no way to antagonize anyone.
This is a bad look when you're the person complaining in the first place. You're the one that cares dude. pic.twitter.com/Lt42pRXVdD— Scott Howard (@ScottHoward42) March 1, 2015
Uh, scratch that.
The twins will be entering the first year of their four-year contracts at a combined $52 million (32 for Kieff, 20 for Marcus) next season. With the imminent revenue inflation and cap increase, plus their contributions on the court, this looks like one of the bigger bargain deals in the NBA.
But given their behavioral issues and rather one-dimensional play, one has to wonder how well they will fit in with this organization long-term.
The Suns are fast becoming a young, athletic team of two-way players. While the twins are still young in age, their lack of athleticism and limited defensive potential sticks out like a sore thumb at times. The Suns will again be entering the summer armed with assets and cap space, not to mention the talented forward T.J. Warren who is already waiting in the wings, so just how secure is the twins' future?
The Suns have long prided themselves on having a squeaky-clean image. They haven't hesitated in the past to rid themselves of players who have generated negative headlines off the court, whether it be trading Jason Kidd for Stephon Marbury or paying Michael Beasley to play elsewhere.
What happens if the point is reached where the Morris twins are more known for their volatile temperaments and cantankerous personas than for their play on the court? Or has that point already arrived?
It would be highly advisable for the twins to finish the season well and play the part of the strong, silent type from here on out. By frequently drawing attention to themselves, they raise many questions about exactly how valuable they are to this young team as the organization forges ahead and establishes their identity.
Specifically, will they be part of the solution or the problem?