NBA Draft 2011: Markieff Morris and the Indiana Pacers' Top 6 Options
The 2011 NBA draft is just a few days away, and speculation is heavy as to which team will pick who, trade who and pass on who. How the lottery will play out is anyone's guess, but there are undoubtedly a great number of talented players available in the upcoming draft.
The Indiana Pacers, who finished eighth in the Eastern Conference last season, sit just outside the lottery with the 15th overall pick in the draft. Despite making the playoffs, Pacers fans can hardly consider the 2010-2011 campaign a success and are surely hoping that their team lands a steal with the desirable 15th pick.
Looking to improve on their short playoff run going forward, the Pacers need to beef up their front line and could also use help at the shooting guard position. Here are their best options for the 2011 NBA draft.
Tristan Thompson, PF, Texas
Thompson would certainly be a steal for the Pacers at 15, but he is unlikely to fall that low.
Klay Thompson, SG, Washington State
The Pacers have plenty of shooters, and Thompson is unlikely to drop to 15 anyway.
Darius Morris, PG, Michigan
Morris, a big point guard with impressive passing ability, could be an option to back up Darren Collison.
Tobias Harris, SF/PF, Tennessee
Harris, a freshman out of Tennessee, has impressed scouts with his maturity and versatility and could provide depth at the forward positions.
6. Kenneth Faried, PF, Morehead State
2010-2011 Stats: 17.3 points, 14.5 rebounds, 2.3 blocks in 34.7 minutes per game
Kenneth Faried is a double-double machine out of Morehead State who has been compared to players like Udonis Haslem, Louis Amundson and even Dennis Rodman. Faried is a lock for the first round of the draft this year and would be an ideal pick for a team in need of rebounding help.
The Pacers were fifth in the NBA in rebounding last season but have a rather weak frontcourt outside the starting lineup and could use a player like Faried to provide hustle off the bench.
Faried is an excellent energy player, but his lack of size and offensive shortcomings could force him into the 20s range of the first round, and the 15th pick may be a bit high for the tenacious senior. However, if the Pacers are adequately enamored by his outstanding motor, they could surprise by snatching the NCAA's top rebounder of 2011.
5. Jimmer Fredette, PG/SG, Brigham Young
2010-2011 Stats: 28.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists in 35.8 minutes per game
Jimmer Fredette gained national fame last season for his incredible scoring ability and unlimited range. Fredette carried his BYU team on his back for the whole season and, despite questions about his ability to play point guard at the next level, is projected to be an early to mid first-round pick in the 2011 NBA draft.
Although Fredette's point guard skills are questionable, there is no doubt he can put the ball in the basket, and his ball-handling and distributing are solid enough that he could certainly handle the backup point guard position for Indiana.
The success of the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 playoffs showed that small guard tandems can work well, and a backcourt duo of Darren Collison and Fredette could work out very well for the Pacers. Fredette's shooting ability would complement Collison's passing ability and spread the floor for the Pacers, and he is not as much of a liability on defense as many claim him to be.
Fredette would bring a winning mentality, leadership and incredible shooting ability to the Pacers, and he should certainly be considered.
4. Marshon Brooks, SG, Providence
2010-2011 Stats: 24.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists in 36.5 minutes per game
Marshon Brooks was one of the most explosive scorers in college basketball this past season, likely second only to Jimmer Fredette and Kemba Walker in scoring ability.
Brooks has the ability to put up points in a number of ways and has even been compared to a young Kobe Bryant. Although living up to that comparison would be immensely difficult, Brooks still has the potential to be a quality NBA player.
Production at the shooting guard position was rather disappointing for the Pacers last season, as Brandon Rush had another subpar season and Paul George was forced into playing guard, which he is not particularly suited for. There has been much speculation that Danny Granger may soon be leaving Indiana, and if that were the case, the Pacers would be wise to draft a player who can pick up the scoring.
Brooks is the perfect man for the job. Although Jimmer Fredette would also provide some helpful scoring punch, he lacks Brooks’ size and is widely viewed as a defensive liability due to his lack of athleticism and his natural position being shooting guard despite being only 6’2”.
Brooks has been rising up the draft boards recently, but he is still rated behind Alec Burks and Klay Thompson at the position of shooting guard, and most mock drafts have him being selected in the 15 to 20 range. Therefore it is quite likely that he will be available by the time the Pacers pick, and he could become a primary scoring option very quickly.
3. Bismack Biyombo, PF/C, Spanish League
2010-2011 Stats: 6.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.3 blocks in 17.0 minutes per game
Despite the major question marks regarding not only Bismack Biyombo’s offensive skills but also his age, the Congolese center’s rare combination of size, athleticism and agility makes drafting him a risk well worth taking. Indiana is devoid of frontcourt depth and could use a strong defensive player like Biyombo to enforce the front line.
Biyombo lacks even a semblance of an offensive game, but he is already a fantastic rebounder, low-post defender and shot blocker. He burst onto the draft scene after a spectacular showing in the 2011 Nike Hoops Summit, in which he recorded a triple-double. Biyombo is an imposing physical specimen who has an NBA-ready body and very quick feet for his size.
Although he undoubtedly has some bust potential, Biyombo also has the potential to be the next Ben Wallace, or better. The Pacers are unlikely to find a star outside of the lottery in such a weak draft, so they would be wise to look to add a wild card like Biyombo.
2. Donatas Motiejunas, PF/C, Italian League
2010-2011 Stats: 12.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 0.4 blocks in 25.6 minutes per game
Donatas Motiejunas, who will likely play power forward at the next level, is basically the direct opposite of Biyombo. Despite his 7’0” frame, Motiejunas lacks Biyombo’s defensive ability or rebounding prowess. However, the skinny Lithuanian more than makes up for his defensive shortcomings due to his uncanny ability to put the ball in the basket.
Motiejunas has drawn comparisons to fellow European big man Andrea Bargnani, who led the Raptors in scoring last season with 21.6 PPG while showing a complete lack of commitment to rebounding. However, Bargnani’s failure to rebound is more due to his mentality than lack of ability, and Motiejunas has all of the physical tools to become a quality rebounder if he sets his mind to it.
Motiejunas has dropped down draft boards recently, and there is a strong chance he could be available when the Pacers pick at No. 15. Not only would Motiejunas provide the Pacers with a floor stretcher at the power forward or center positions, but he could also turn out to be their power forward of the future if selected, despite the development of Tyler Hansbrough.
Motiejunas has arguably the most potential of any player within the 10-20 range, and the Pacers would be wise to take a chance on him should he fall to 15.
1. Markieff Morris, PF, Kansas
2010-2011 Stats: 13.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.1 blocks in 24.4 minutes per game
I am amazed at how undervalued Markieff Morris has been in most NBA mock drafts. His stats are impressive any way you slice it, but when you look at his relatively low minutes per game, they become very impressive.
Morris averaged 13.6 rebounds per 40 minutes, and while he likely isn't quite as good of a rebounder as Faried or Biyombo, he has a polished and versatile offensive game that both of them lack, along with NBA range.
Markieff's twin, Marcus, is ranked above him in most mock drafts and big boards. This is understandable, as Marcus, who averaged 17.2 PPG last season, is viewed as a far superior scorer to his brother. However, Marcus also played more minutes than Markieff, and Markieff's scoring average increases to 15.8 PPG when given as many minutes as his twin.
Furthermore, Markieff shot a higher percentage from both the field (58.9 percent vs. Marcus' 57 percent) and three-point range (42.4 percent vs. Marcus' 34.2 percent).
Regardless, Marcus is still a superior scorer to Markieff. However, Markieff is not as far behind as some might think, and his greater stature and superior rebounding ability could lead him to be a better player at the next level.
Although Markieff Morris will likely never be a star in the NBA, he is a solid, NBA-ready player with very few weaknesses. Markieff is not particularly athletic and lacks huge potential, but in a draft class from which superstars are unlikely to emerge, he is a safe, smart pick and would be an excellent choice for the Indiana Pacers.
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