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Phoenix Suns: 5 Signs Markieff Morris Can Be a Franchise Cornerstone

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IOctober 20, 2016

Phoenix Suns: 5 Signs Markieff Morris Can Be a Franchise Cornerstone

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    Phoenix Suns rookie Markieff Morris has made major waves early in his professional career, providing a well-rounded spark off the bench for the struggling ball club.

    As the No. 13 overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, high expectations were placed on Morris from the moment the lockout ended and training camp began. 

    Fast forward nearly a quarter through the shortened 2011-12 NBA season. 

    Not surprisingly, the 22-year-old power forward has not only turned heads with his stifling defense but with his better-than-advertised offensive game. 

    Join Bleacher Report as we look at five signs that the youngest Sun can become the franchise's next cornerstone.

Versatile Scorer

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    Markieff Morris is averaging more than nine points per game this season with the Suns, despite playing just over 21 minutes per night. 

    Morris' 9.1 PPG average is the fifth-most of any Suns player in 2011-12, and the second-most of any player coming off the bench in the desert. 

    The fact that Morris can score in a variety of ways, including from beyond the arc, where he's shooting a scorching 51.6 percent this season with the Suns, makes him a legitimate building block for the future. 

Ideal Size

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    At 6'10", 245 pounds Morris has the height and athleticism necessary to post up and defend elite NBA centers night in and night out for years to come. 

    Although many fans don't realize, Morris has a frame almost identical to that of the Oklahoma City Thunder's Serge Ibaka.

    Morris' arms aren't quite as long and he does not present the same shot-blocking threat that Ibaka does, but he does bring more muscle to the table, 10 pounds more in fact.

Plenty of Upside

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    Morris has been steadily improving ever since his freshman season at Kansas in 2008-09. 

    The Philly native began his Jayhawk career averaging 4.6 PPG and 4.4 RPG in 15.6 MPG, but by his junior year was averaging 13.6 PPG and 8.3 RPG in 24.4 MPG. 

    Morris' field goal percentage climbed from 44.8 percent his freshman season to nearly 59 percent last year. 

Incredibly Efficient

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    Despite coming off the bench, Morris sports the third best PER (player efficiency rating) of any Suns player this season. 

    Morris' 17.9 PER places him third behind only Marcin Gortat and Steve Nash on Phoenix's roster. 

    The rookie turns the ball over just once per night on average, and is shooting 50 percent from the field this season, making an average of 3.5 shots per game on just seven attempts. 

Defense, Rebounding and Energy

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    Only starters Marcin Gortat and Grant Hill have more blocks than Morris this season and only Gortat and Channing Frye have more rebounds. 

    The Suns rookie sixth man is averaging 5.5 RPG in a reserve role this season in Phoenix, and has provided a huge lift for the Suns' second unit. 

    Follow _Pat_Clarke on Twitter

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