1. Markieff Morris – Markieff Morris finally had the bounce-back week that many had anticipated. In fact, Markieff Morris improved upon his season averages in points, rebounds, assists, and blocks per game, including an increase of nearly one whole point per game. Morris managed to score quite well, putting up double figures in four of his five games including a 23 point outburst against the Jazz. Markieff Morris has continued to develop as a shooter and as a defender, and his production is not going unnoticed in Phoenix. Now it falls on the older of the Morrii to continue to play at a consistent level, which has been the only thing keeping him from breaking out and becoming the full time starter for the Suns. He’ll have three more chances to prove himself against decent competition, but Markieff Morris is slowly becoming a household name in the NBA. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt when you can pull off dunks like this…
2. Marcus Morris – The Morrii did some real damage this week, and Marcus was nearly as big a part of it as his brother. Following his performance as co-player of the week, the younger twin was solid as the Suns went 3-2 over the last seven days. One advantage Marcus Morris does hold over his brother is his ball handling ability, which is far above average for an NBA power forward. Marcus Morris has a lot of moves he can attack with off of the dribble, and Coach Hornacek is finding more and more ways to keep him involved with the offense. It should also be noted that this season Marcus Morris has career highs in minutes, points, rebounds, and steals per game, in addition to field goal, three-point, and free-throw percentage. Also, with a 38.9 three-point percentage, Marcus Morris is seventh in the NBA for all power forwards.
3. Mario Chalmers – Chalmers had an up-and-down week, but he continues to be a lethal outside shooter and lock-down defender. In fact, Chalmers currently ranks eighth in the NBA in three-point percentage for all point-guards and tenth in steals for the ENTIRE NBA. Chalmers played fairly well against Toronto with six points, eight assists, two rebounds, three steals, and a block, but his week was really nothing to write home about. He does however have some favorable matchups ahead, as the Heat will play Charlotte, Detroit, Chicago, and Minnesota in the upcoming week (none of which are known for having exceptionally gifted defenders at the point). I also do want to note that the Heat are on a nine-game winning streak (since starting the season 4-3(, which is certainly something to watch moving forward.
4. Paul Pierce – It was difficult to watch Paul Pierce this week, as he missed one game with a bruised hand and scored just two points in fifteen minutes against Houston, before being benched for the second half. Having five games in seven days certainly did no favors for The Truth, as he faded as the week went on. In his last two games Pierce was just 5/23 (21.2%) from the field, 2/10 (20%) from three, and 2-5 (40%) from the free-throw line… Yikes. Pierce averaged three turnovers per game last week, and the Nets as a whole have continued to struggle. One bright spot for Pierce is that the Nets chose to keep him out of their most recent game against the Grizzlies, meaning that Pierce should be nice and fresh for the Nets, who don’t play again until Tuesday. Pierce will have three games this week to really reestablish himself as a force for the Nets, and in the NBA, and it should be interesting to see how Coach Jason Kidd continues to handle Pierce’s playing time moving forward.
5. Ben McLemore (pictured above)– Ben McLemore was nearly the player of the week, and may have been if not for the fact that the Kings only played two games. McLemore has officially taken the starting shooting guard job in Sacramento, and he responded nicely to the added pressure, putting up two double-digit scoring performances last week. It is quite exciting to see Ben McLemore emerge from a shy, passive guard to a floor general, and he’s certainly taken some steps in the right direction. I implore all of you to try to watch a Kings’ game in the upcoming weeks, and when you do, keep an eye on McLemore as he looks for his shot and calls for the ball on nearly every possession. The ceiling for Ben McLemore is quite high, and it will be intriguing to see if he continues to play at a high level and really lock down his position as a starter. Also it should be noted that McLemore is currently third in points per game and sixth in free-throw percentage for all rookies.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Markieff Morris
Markieff Morris was really smooth this week as he made improvements in nearly every statistical category. In fact, Morris’ 1.7 assists per game average is good enough for 15th in the NBA by a power forward. During the last week Markieff Morris managed to snag five rebounds and combine for eight total rebounds and assists in every game except for one, where he had 23 points on 8-13 shooting. While he won’t blow anyone away, Markieff Morris is a very good young player in the NBA and is continuing to hold down the number one spot on the list; however, there is one thing I’d like to see Markieff Morris improve on. Markieff Morris often settles for jumpers when he should be going inside. If Markieff Morris can resist the urge to take those long jump shots, I think it’ll be safe to say that he’ll be a major piece of the new Phoenix Suns, especially with his 19.61 player efficiency rating.
Overall, we saw a lot of movement on the list this week, which isn’t completely surprising. What is surprising, however, is the downward spiral of Paul Pierce, who continues to wane. Its about to be “gut-check” time for Pierce, who has been a long-time force in the NBA, and it will be interesting to see how he plays knowing that his time as an All-Star is probably over. Regardless, the younger Jayhawks in the NBA have performed well, and as I’ve mentioned, before long there will be a new wave of talent rising up from the ranks including Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Wayne Selden, Cliff Alexander, Perry Ellis, and Kelly Oubre, among others. I will add that this week was one of the more competitive weeks for the Jayhawks in the NBA, as Xavier Henry nearly broke back in to the top five with a 21-point outing against the Kings, and Hinrich fell just short of the list after managing to stick around for a few weeks. I suspect that these next few weeks could see Pierce fall completely off the map, which would lead to those two guys, along with McLemore, competing for the final two spots.
This week there are again two games I want to highlight as key contests for the Jayhawks in the NBA, and they come on back-to-back nights. The first game will be Thursday as Mario Chalmers and the Heat battle against Kirk Hinrich and the Bulls. This will be a nice chance for Chalmers and Hinrich to face off, as both are known for their defense, and both are starting for their respective teams. This also has a bit of a “new era versus old school” feel to it, if you know what I mean. The second matchup is on Friday, December 6th, as the Lakers will head over to Sacramento to take on the Kings. McLemore and Henry will get another shot at each other, as it will be Ben McLemore’s chance to respond after Henry scored 21 points in a Lakers victory last week. It should also be noted that McLemore started the first game and scored 15 points in 26 minutes, including this smooth slam dunk. Again, I am going to leave you all with a recap of the first five weeks, and if you have any comments or questions please write them below or send them to me on twitter at @ScottChasen1994.