Sixth Man Rankings: Markieff Morris Forces His Way Into Conversation

Markieff  & Marcus Morris Suns After starting off the season atop the Sixth Man Rankings and quickly dropping out, Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris has climbed his way back into the top spot following consecutive weeks of efficient scoring.

Despite playing the entire month of January without star point guard Eric Bledsoe – out indefinitely due to knee surgery – Phoenix still surprisingly stands seven games above .500. They are currently the seventh seed in a loaded Western Conference.

Coach Jeff Hornacek is in his first year and doesn’t have an All-Star (although Goran Dragic deserves consideration). The Suns are the fourth-least experienced team in the league. Miraculously, they just keep on winning.

Markieff Morris has been a huge reason why.

For the season, Morris has averaged 12.4 points and 5.9 rebounds in 24.9 minutes. Those are impressive totals by nearly any measure. They become even more impressive when you consider Morris’ role for the Suns.

Unlike competing Sixth Man candidates, who primarily play guard and control the ball for significant chunks of time on the offensive end, Morris has to find all of his scoring chances in limited time with the ball.

Morris controls possession for less than a minute per night, via NBA.com. Regardless, he has gone for 20-plus points in nearly a quarter of his team’s games. While on the court, Morris uses just 22.7 percent of his team’s possessions and scores 24 percent of his team’s points.

His value is apparent with a quick glance at his split stats. In wins, Morris has averaged 14.9 points and 6.3 rebounds. In losses, he has been limited to 8.9 points and 5.3 rebounds. At 6-10, he has the ability to space the floor with a streaky-yet-decent 3-point shot. He is shooting only 33 percent from deep on the season, but that number improves to 40 percent in wins.

The 24-year-old has a PER of 18.5 and is quite content to come off the bench as long as his team continues to win.

The last forward to win the Sixth Man award was Lamar Odom in 2011. Before Odom, Antawn Jamison won the award in 2004. It is not very common for a forward to force his way into the conversation. When it happens, it gets exciting.

If Morris keeps up his strong play, he has a legitimate chance to join the conversation.

Now, on to the rankings.

RANK Player RUNDOWN RECENT
1 Phoenix Suns MARKIEFF MORRIS, F, PHOENIX: No Bledsoe. No problem. Phoenix is still competing at a high level. On Wednesday, the Suns beat the Pacers by 24 points. Morris has stepped up his play in Bledsoe’s absence, averaging 21 points on 56 percent from the field over his last four games. 3
2 Spurs MANU GINOBILI, G, SAN ANTONIO: Ginobili had his most dominant game of the season last Friday when he went for 29 points, seven rebounds and five assists in only 25 minutes. He would sit atop the rankings if not for his Spurs dropping two important games last week to Portland and OKC.  2
3 UTA_Williams_Mo

MO WILLIAMS, G, PORTLAND: His drop from the top spot reflects more on the Blazers’ back-to-back losses than anything Williams has done wrong. His January continues to be stellar as he has averaged 11.4 points on 40 percent from deep along with an impressive 5.4 assists in 25 minutes.

1
4 UTA_Burks_Alec ALEC BURKS, G, UTAH: Averaging 19 points over his last six games and a big reason why his Jazz are no longer laughingstocks around the league. Only 22 years old, has good size and rebounds well for his position. Safe to say he has a bright future. 4
5 PHI_Young_Nick NICK YOUNG, G, LOS ANGELES: Came back from his one-game suspension with a vengeance, scoring 29 and 31 points on consecutive nights. He’s hot from deep right now and could become a valuable trade piece at the deadline if the Lakers decide to become sellers.

DROPOUTS: Dion Waiters, G, Cleveland (5).

FIVE TO WATCH: Rodney Stuckey, G, Detroit; Tyreke Evans, G,  New Orleans; Luis Scola, F, Indiana; Nate Robinson, G, Denver; Taj Gibson, F, Chicago.

OTHER RANKINGS: RookieMost Improved MVP| Power Rankings

Jacob Eisenberg is a student at Emory University, spending the spring semester abroad, and covers the NBA for SheridanHoops.com. Check out his website and click here to follow him on Twitter. 


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