1. Markieff Morris – Markieff Morris played as well as any true power-forward not named LeBron James in the past seven days. That is no exaggeration. The older Morris was spectacular, averaging just shy of 19 points per game, along with 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.0 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game. Markieff Morris had taken a step back for a little bit, and I even questioned if he would remain at number one for much longer. However, Markieff Morris has absolutely proven himself to be the best Jayhawk in the NBA, and he is having a truly fantastic season alongside his brother. The twin-connection is certainly still a factor in the Suns’ play, as Markieff had two sweet assists to his brother Marcus, including this one for a reverse layup (but trust me, you’re really going to want to see the other one… just keep reading…)
2. Paul Pierce – Paul Pierce has quietly recovered from earlier in the year to salvage the season, and as a function the Nets have turned it around as well, winning 16 of their last 24 games. In fact, Brooklyn is nearly at .500 for the season, which is really impressive considering that they started 5-14. Pierce was pretty good over the last seven days, averaging 14.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game. While Paul Pierce is done being an elite player in the NBA, he certainly isn’t done producing. The Nets have needed everything Pierce has brought to the table thus far, and he is a large part of why they find themselves at 6th in the Eastern Conference (and just one game out of 5th).
3. Marcus Morris – Alright… I told you to keep reading, and if you did you are about to be rewarded. Marcus Morris (pictured above) had a pretty good week, but what he really did can’t really be written on paper. After watching his brother get dunked on by Aron Baynes, Marcus Morris took matter into his own hands to get revenge. Morris had the highlight of the week for the Jayhawks in the NBA, as he threw down this ABSURD poster-slam dunk against the San Antonio Spurs, off of an assist from his big brother I might add. Social media was abuzz when the younger Morris pulled off the impressive slam, check out some of the tweets from when it happened…
DAMN, WHICHEVER MORRIS TWIN PERSON THIS IS pic.twitter.com/724guHX269
— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) February 22, 2014
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) February 22, 2014
GIF: Marcus Morris absolutely destroys Aron Baynes with a thunderous one-handed dunk. http://t.co/gBicXcv4Ae
— theScore (@theScore) February 22, 2014
Plays like this are a part of what have made the Morris combination so lethal for Phoenix, and Marcus (along with his brother) will certainly be fun to follow moving forward. The only question remaining about Marcus Morris is whether or not his dunk on Baynes was better than Xavier Henry’s dunk on Jeff Withey…
4. Mario Chalmers – What is there to say about Mario Chalmers that hasn’t been said? Mario Chalmers is the definition of consistency. His stats at home and on the road differ by less than 0.5 in any single category; he averages the same number of minutes per game in wins and losses; there is no “Xavier Henry-like” dip in production on any individual day. It seems that every week Mario Chalmers has a couple of 10 points/5 assist games, and then one with 15 points and 10 assists, and this week was no different. Chalmers was solid, averaging 10.3 points, 7.0 assists, and 2.7 steals per game, as the Heat improved to 40-14 on the season. While there really isn’t anything exciting to note about the Alaska native, it will be important to watch his play moving in to the postseason, where he always seems to step it up.
T-5. Ben McLemore – As I’m writing this I’m debating whether or not to reference the artist that has a similar sounding name with the Kings’ shooting guard, but I think I’ll pass for now. McLemore (pictured above) makes his return to the list this week after his impressive performance in the Sprite Slam Dunk (dunk contest), where he pulled off this ridiculous dunk over Shaquille O’Neal (who was watching from a throne). McLemore’s athleticism has never been a secret, as Bill Self even noted that he was probably the best dunker in KU basketball history. While McLemore has struggled as of late, it was nice to see him get national recognition as a talented dunker, and hopefully this will open up some more opportunities for him, as he’ll continue to sky like the ceiling can’t hold him (there’s your Macklemore reference… you’re welcome).
T-5. Thomas Robinson – You might be a bit surprised to see Thomas Robinson’s name on this list, but let me assure you he absolutely belongs. Thomas Robinson played 20 or more minutes twice in the last week, and the result was 12.0 points, 13.5 rebounds (yes, you read that right), and 1.0 blocks per game. In fact, against a massive Timberwolves squad Robinson went for 14 and 18… points and rebounds… in that order. He also had two assists and two blocks in that game. One of those blocks was pretty darn spectacular… it even made the Top Ten on Sportscenter. If that dunk didn’t bring you back to his KU days when he swatted that shot against Missouri (pictured below), than nothing probably will. Regardless, Robinson has proven himself to be quite effective when given the minutes, and one can only expect those minutes to be increasing as the season progresses.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Markieff Morris
Markieff Morris was absolutely fantastic this week, outperforming big men such as Pau Gasol, Andre Drummond, Carlos Boozer, and Zach Randolph. At a glace, Markieff Morris appears to be an undersized power forward, who doesn’t have overwhelming athleticism, but Markieff Morris is in fact one of the most complete players in the NBA. Morris, who is a top contender for both the “Sixth Man of the Year” and “Most Improved Player” awards in the NBA, has helped the Suns in numerous areas, from scoring and rebounding to hustle and defense. One of the best things a bench player can do is force opponents to game plan against him, and Markieff Morris has certainly made sure to do that. As the season drags on the Suns should be relying on the older Morris more and more, so he may even see some increased production in the upcoming weeks.
Overall… this was a great week for the Jayhawks in the NBA, as each player on the list had a winning record, not to mention the fact that there were six (not three, not four, not five… couldn’t resist) players on the list. While the Morris Twins really stole the show, there were a lot of top contributors that didn’t even make the list. Kirk Hinrich put up some impressive numbers over the last seven days, and Jeff Withey continued to contribute, as he even got some national attention from one member of the media…
Seen nothing in the first half to disprove my thought that Withey should play way more. Porous Pels D only allowed 10 points in his 7 mins
— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) February 23, 2014
Pels are +8 in 4 mins since Withey entered (and Nene and Gortat left)
— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) February 23, 2014
While the race for the best Jayhawk in the NBA has likely been locked up by Markieff Morris, it’s been enjoyable to see all the young talent emerge in the league, and it shouldn’t be forgotten that soon there will be a couple more fantastic young Jayhawks in the NBA, by the names of Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Wayne Selden, and Cliff Alexander, but for now, let’s just focus on the upcoming week…
What to Watch for: This week there are just two key games I’m going to preview. The first game will be this Wednesday, as the Brooklyn Nets face the Portland Trail Blazers. As I mentioned above, Thomas Robinson played the game of his life last week, and it will be interesting to see how his minutes are affected moving forward. This game will also be big for Paul Pierce, and the Nets, who will be looking to inch closer to .500. The second game will be on Friday, as the Phoenix Suns square off against the New Orleans Pelicans. Anthony Davis will certainly test each of the Morrii, as he locks down the paint for the Pelicans, but don’t forget about the impact of Jeff Withey, as he looks to establish himself in the rotation. Finally, I will leave all of you with a recap of the first sixteen weeks. As always, if you have any comments or questions please write them below or send them to me on twitter: @SChasenKU.