It has now been a few years since Amar'e Stoudemire left for New York City, and the Phoenix Suns are still trying to replace that production and find a new star power forward for the future. Though Luis Scola and Channing Frye were both serviceable veterans, the Suns haven't been able to find a future starting power forward yet.
Perhaps that player isn't on the current roster and the Suns will have to look to the NBA draft or free agency in order to find a quality power forward for the future.
But the Suns do have a couple of prospects at this position, and they will try to get the most out of those prospects by making this season all about player development.
This season, there are only three players who will be logging a significant amount of minutes at power forward. Those three are Markieff Morris, Channing Frye and Marcus Morris.
Unfortunately for the Suns, they do not have much variety at this position. All three of these players really have a similar skill set. There is no defensive enforcer, tenacious rebounder or dominant post player. All three of these guys are special in that they have range and are capable of knocking down long-range shots. But besides that, they do not appear to have any fantastic secondary skills.
Now, here is the full breakdown of the position.
When the season begins, Markieff Morris will be the team's starting power forward. Fans will be unimpressed by looking at his stats page, as he averaged just 8.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game last season and appeared to show little improvement between his rookie and sophomore seasons.
However, contrary to popular belief, Markieff has done relatively well when given starting minutes. Last season, in 13 games where he played at least 30 minutes, Morris averaged 15.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game while shooting 51 percent from the field and 50 percent from downtown.
Those numbers certainly bring some hope. Perhaps if all goes well, Markieff could be the future starting power forward the Suns are looking for. And even if this isn't the case, that stat line does at least mean that it is not time to give up on the 2011 lottery pick just yet.
But before the Suns commit any more money or time to Markieff after his rookie deal expires, he needs to work on the consistency of his shot as well as his defense. These are known flaws of both the Morris twins.
Morris especially needs to work on his jump shot if the Suns are to be at all successful in winning games this season. Neither Eric Bledsoe nor P.J. Tucker are great three-point shooters, so Morris will have to be one of the major long-range threats in that starting lineup to create proper spacing.
And if Morris is to be a part of the Suns' long-term plans, he can no longer be a defensive liability. Last season, he posted a defensive rating of 106 with an offensive rating of just 96.
We will see just how much Morris improved over the summer soon enough through his performance in the preseason games. This could potentially be his breakout season, in which case he would emerge as one of the top scorers on the roster. But if he again appears stagnant in his production, the Suns will have to look elsewhere for a starting power forward.
Season Stat Projection: 26.7 MPG, 10.6 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.0 BPG
Channing Frye will return to action this season after missing all of 2012-13 with an enlarged heart, and his presence has the potential to have a major impact on this young Suns team.
At one time, Frye averaged over 12 points per game and was able to occasionally score 20-plus points for the Suns while nailing three after three. But now, we don't know if he will ultimately be the same player he was with Steve Nash at point guard.
But Frye also contributes more than just his on-court play. He is the only player on the roster who is at least 30 years old and is expected to be a veteran role model for the younger prospects on the team. Goran Dragic and Frye are now the only two Suns remaining from the 2010 playoff run, and those two will be expected to help the process of player development as much as they can.
In terms on-court production, Frye will provide proper spacing with his three-point shooting. With the loss of Jared Dudley, the Suns will likely be a bottom-five team in three-point field-goal percentage.
Although Frye's presence alone does not instantly make the Suns a top three-point shooting team, he will prevent the paint from getting clogged and will allow space for Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe to drive the lane or for Marcin Gortat to finish down low.
He is also not just a one-dimensional player. Frye's rebounding and defensive skills are quite often overlooked, and in 2011-12 he actually grabbed 8.2 boards per 36 minutes and came in second on the team in defensive rating behind only Gortat.
For now, we do not know how much playing time Frye will receive off the bench. However, there have been no restrictions placed on him for a certain amount of minutes per game. Another encouraging sign is that he did play 24 minutes in the team's public scrimmage on Saturday.
Season Stat Projection: 20.4 MPG, 8.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.9 BPG
Marcus Morris is also likely to play plenty of minutes at small forward, and he will alternate between the two forward positions. When Marcus was acquired by the Suns at the trade deadline in February in exchange for only a second-round pick, he seemed like a great steal for the Suns.
However, he struggled in the second half of the 2012-13 season and posted averages of 5.7 points and 2.5 rebounds per game while shooting 41 percent from the field. Near the end of the year, he actually began to fall out of the rotation and averaged just 13 minutes of play over his final 10 games.
But now, Morris has the chance to redeem himself and play a much bigger part in the rotation. At both small forward and power forward, he will be needed to provide both scoring and valuable three-point shooting.
On the other hand, Marcus also has to work on both consistency with his shot as well as defense. Despite shooting 38 percent from three-point range for the first half of the 2012-13 season with Houston, Marcus shot just 31 percent for Phoenix. That is a worse percentage than Kendall Marshall, which is completely unacceptable, as Morris will be relied on to create adequate spacing with outside shooting.
Additionally, his defense needs work, and the 6'9" forward could also work on rebounding, as he grabs just 6.4 rebounds per 36 minutes for his career.
His first preseason game against Maccabi Haifa shows promise, as he scored 10 points, grabbed two rebounds and made two threes in just 16 minutes.
Morris does have potential, and hopefully he will show some development this year. He may not be a future superstar, but he could develop into one of the better bench players in the NBA—or possibly even become a starter.
Season Stat Projection: 19.5 MPG, 7.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.4 BPG
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