1. Markieff Morris – Markieff Morris is having the best year of his career, and it isn’t even close. Let me throw out some numbers to start: 3.1 Estimated Wins Added, 18+ Player Efficiency Rating, 92.7 Value Added. These numbers are better than those put up this season by Carlos Boozer, David West, and Amar’e Stoudemire; all of them have been NBA All-Stars multiple times (including Stoudemire who has been an All-Star four times). Everything has been clicking for Markieff Morris since his brother arrived in the Valley of the Sun (both players are pictured below), and he even converted on a ridiculous full-court baseball-pass this week, racking up an assist and a spot on the famed (and sometimes overhyped/hockey filled) “SC Top Ten.” I’ll go in to more detail about Morris’ week below, but this was an important stretch for him, as he returned to his early-season form and has continued to remain atop the list, and deservedly so. How good has Morris been? Well, he’s shooting 47% from the floor this year, which is better than Tim Duncan, Kevin Love, Pau Gasol, Chris Paul, Paul George, James Harden, Stephen Curry, Carmelo Anthony, Damian Lillard, John Wall, and Zach Randolph (see below for an interesting note on these statistics). Morris has posted career highs in numerous statistics, including points, rebounds, assists, steals, and minutes per game, and he has actually improved on those statistics each year since being drafted by the Phoenix Suns in 2011. All signs point to Morris’ continued growth as a player, and it should be fun to watch him to continue to excel the rest of this year.
Authors Note: Upon looking up those statistics I discovered that as of Saturday Jeff Withey was sixth in the entire NBA in field goal percentage (absolutely not a joke… take a look for yourself), ahead of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Dwight Howard. Obviously, Withey does not play even relatively close to the amount of minutes as those other players, and he has not attempted an amount of shots that is even in the same galaxy as those guys, but it was a funny to see Withey leading in a statistic that isn’t “getting absolutely destroyed by Xavier Henry.” It should be noted Withey leads the league in that stat…
2. Paul Pierce – I don’t mean to sound like a broken record here, but turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, and turnovers have absolutely killed the Nets (and Paul Pierce) this season. The word “turnovers” is written 22 times above, one for each of the Nets’ losses this season (symbolic, I know… S/O 4th grade English class for that one). While the season has progressed, Paul Pierce has continued to turn the ball over more and more, averaging more turnovers per game each new month since the start of the season. Pierce only played for twenty seven minutes this week, yet he found a way to turn the ball over three times. Pierce only did that six times last year, and he appeared in 83 games (counting postseason), meaning that he turned it over 7.23% of the time. This year he’s done it four times… in just 33 games (12.12% of the time). That statistic is quite alarming considering that Pierce has seen a 1.8 drop in assists per game, accounting for his lowest mark in that category since his rookie year… in the 1998-1999 season… 1998-1989! In that season Karl Malone was voted MVP, Vince Carter was the Rookie of the Year, and Alonzo Mourning was the Defensive Player of the Year. Scottie Pippen made the All-NBA Defensive Team. 1998-1999! I was five! That was a long time ago… NBA-wise that is. Hopefully Pierce can get his turnover woes figured out, and he will have a key game to do so, as it will be on a nationally broadcast platform.
3. Mario Chalmers – Mario Chalmers finally returned to the court this week, and the Heat immediately felt his impact. The Heat were coming off of a three-game losing streak when Chalmers returned… Miami had not lost three games in a row since January 10-13… 2012. Yes, that was two full seasons ago. Since Chalmers returned, the Heat have gone 2-0, as Chalmers averaged 9.5 points, 5.0 assists, and 2.5 steals per game. Chalmers has been successful as an all-around contributor this year, as he is sixth in the NBA in steals per game (fifth out of point guards), 13th out of all point guards in three-point percentage, and tenth out of all point guards in blocks per game. Mario Chalmers continues to be the perfect compliment for the Big Three (which has really become the big one and moderately sized other two), and if he can stay healthy he could end up snagging another championship this season, something John Stockton never accomplished once while playing alongside Karl Malone (who is actually the same height and weight as LeBron James). He’ll also have a chance to prove himself on national television this week… keep reading for more information…
4. Marcus Morris – Sixth in steals per game for a power forward… fewer turnovers per game than Blake Griffin, Tim Duncan, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Anthony Davis, and Dirk Nowitzki… 6th in three-point field goals made for all power forwards… 10th in three-point percentage for power forwards… 15th in points per minute for power forwards… Before this season who would have even dreamed that Marcus Morris could put up numbers like that? Certainly not me. Certainly not anybody. The younger Morris has absolutely exceeded all expectations this year, although he did drop a spot on the list this week due to the return of Mario Chalmers. One of Morris’ greatest attributes has been toughness, something his older brother normally takes the praise for. However, in “typical Morris fashion,” Marcus Morris sprung to the defense of Alex Len after Nick Young of the Los Angeles Lakers took exception to a foul, earning a $25,000 fine from the league office. However, it should be noted that the team was happy to chip in and help pay off the fine because the Suns are exactly that… a team. Phoenix has truly been the story of the year, and Marcus Morris has sort of personified the team, as he has been a very solid player that no one was talking about prior to the start of the season.
5. Thomas Robinson – Thomas Robinson (pictured above) had a pretty nice week, and he really has had an impressive season when he has played enough minutes. In fact, Robinson had expressed his displeasure with the role on the Trail Blazers, and it appears that he has been given additionally responsibilities, which bodes well for Portland. When Robinson plays for nine or more minutes, the Trail Blazers have gone 23-3 (88.5% winning percentage); however, when Robinson plays eight or fewer minutes, the Trail Blazers are just 8-6 (57.1% winning percentage). Robinson played ten or more minutes for each game this week, and the Blazers responded by going 3-0. TRob was very efficient in those three games, shooting 80% from the floor (8/10) and averaging 4.0 rebounds per game. It is interesting to note that Robinson has performed at a fairly high level, with a Player Efficiency Rating above 15 (which is the league average). Robinson has struggled to get on the court, but in fairness, he is backing up one of the best power forwards in the NBA… on one of the best teams in the NBA. Robinson did need some help to get on this list, which came in the form of a lengthy injury to Xavier Henry, but he has also done his part to beat out guys like Kirk Hinrich and Ben McLemore (although those two were recently criticized by ESPN as being two of the “least valuable players in the NBA”). Regardless, TRob is doing a lot of the same things that made him an absolute stud (as Bill Self would say) at the University of Kansas.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Markieff Morris
When a player has two twenty-point games and puts up two ridiculous highlight plays, it’s pretty much a forgone conclusion that he’ll be rising on the list. The bad news for Markieff Morris is that he didn’t move up this week; the good news… that is because he was already number one. Markieff Morris was downright spectacular as the week went on, and he even completed his first four-point play of the season during the fourth quarter of a tight game. The Suns have continued to struggle since the injury to Eric Bledsoe, but Markieff Morris has finally returned to his early-season form, averaging 23.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.0 points per game over his last two contests. Additionally, the older Morris went 10-of-11 from the line (90.9%) and shot 58.6% from the field (42.9% from three) in that time. Markieff Morris has brought his Player Efficiency Rating back above the 18-point mark, moving him ahead of players such as Rudy Gay, Luol Deng, Zach Randolph, and Roy Hibbert. Morris has really had a standout year, and he’ll look to continue it in the upcoming week, as he will be facing off against one team that he has put up “LeBron-ian” numbers against (no spoilers here… you have to keep reading).
Overall… This was a down week for the Jayhawks in the NBA because of the… well… lack of Jayhawks playing this week. The Brooklyn Nets hit a rare part of their schedule, playing just one game over the last seven days, while other Jayhawks struggled with injuries. However, it’s hard to be disappointed when four of the five Jayhawks on the list have an above-average Player Efficiency Rating, and the fifth player is a future Hall of Fame member and former NBA Finals MVP. Thomas Robinson joined the list this week, and he’ll have a fantastic chance to remain on this list with a recent increase in minutes. There are three pretty good matchups to watch for this week, two of which will be nationally televised, so without any further ado… let’s get to it…
What to Watch for: This week there are three key matchups I would like to highlight. First, the Nuggets will visit the Valley of the Sun, as they’ll take on Phoenix today (Sunday) at 8:00 local time. Markieff Morris has performed at an outstanding level against the Nuggets, averaging 26.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 3.0 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game (two games so far). Morris has also shot 75% from beyond the arc against Denver, his best against any team in the league (by far). Additionally, this will be a great opportunity to check out both Marcus Morris and Darrell Arthur. The second game to watch will be just one day later, as the Brooklyn Nets face off against their in-state rival: The New York Knicks. Paul Pierce and Carmelo Anthony will be going head-to-head for the first time since March 31, 2013, when Pierce played for the Boston Celtics (pictured above); Pierce sat out during the December 5th meeting between the Knicks and Nets with a fractured hand. Both Pierce and Anthony scored 24 points in their previous battle, with the former Jayhawk snagging an impressive 15 rebounds. That game will be shown on ESPN and on www.WatchESPN.com. Last, the Los Angeles Lakers will take their talents to South Beach to take on the Miami Heat, in what could potentially be a matchup between Xavier Henry and Mario Chalmers (should Henry return from injury). Regardless, Chalmers has finally returned to action, and as I wrote last week, the Heat play far better when he is in the lineup. There’s never a bad time to check out the best player in the world either… This game will be shown on TNT, Thursday night, at 7:00 local time. Finally, I will leave all of you with a recap of the first twelve weeks. As always, if you have any comments or question please write them below or send them to me on twitter: @SChasenKU.