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.
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.