Markieff Morris has a fairly compelling argument for his Sixth Man of the Year candidacy. The Phoenix Suns are much better than any of us thought they'd be, and Morris has had a lot to do with it. He made his case recently, according to AZCentral's Paul Coro:
Coming off the bench with energy, scoring, rebounding, making my teammates better and winning games, especially when we were supposed to win 17. When you're supposed to win 17 and you got a guy like me averaging 14 points and we might pull off a playoff run 15 or 16 games above .500. You knew the Clippers (Jamal Crawford reference) were going to be good. You knew the Bulls (Taj Gibson reference) were going to be good, with or without D (Derrick) Rose. Y'all thought we were going after a Number 1 pick. I think I deserve Sixth Man Award for the team success.
The sixth-man recognition is always one of the most hotly contested awards, especially in a league that increasingly relies upon bench presences to stem the tide when starters take a seat.
Sheridan Hoops' Jacon Eisenberg argues it should be a two-man contest between Morris and Taj Gibson, noting that both Jamal Crawford and Reggie Jackson have had significant starting stints:
Gibson and Morris aren’t the consensus favorites to win the award, although they should be at this point. While they’re both in the discussion, pundits across the country are still advocating for Jamal Crawford, Reggie Jackson, Manu Ginobili, Vince Carter and even Nick Young.
Ginobili and Carter both have the veteran thing down, and that could work to their advantage. Successful as the Suns have been, the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks have been even better. And to whatever extent team success is a metric for the award, it's a little hard to see Nick Young getting the recognition on account of the Los Angeles Lakers' woeful season.
Morris is averaging 13.7 points and 6.1 rebounds in what certainly qualifies as a breakout campaign for the 24-year-old. Last season, he put up just 8.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per contest.
Beyond the numbers, there's certainly something to be said for how Morris has gotten his production. SBNation's Michael Jones notes, "how well he's stretched the floor and made defenders honor his diverse skill set."
Whether Morris comes away with the award, he's certainly added to Phoenix's talented young base. The organization is looking at an increasingly bright future thanks to the emergence of Morris, point guard Goran Dragic and shooting guard Gerald Green.
This time next year, they may not have to fight quite so hard for a playoff spot.