Since being selected with the 13th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Markieff Morris has slowly, steadily improved as a pro.
Primarily coming off the bench for the Phoenix Suns, Morris has played well enough to earn regular minutes, but has not been good enough to be thought of as someone who could be a go-to player on a good team.
Obviously he's not there now, but with averages of 12.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game on .475 shooting -- and with point totals of 24, 23, 16 and 20 over his last four games -- the third-year pro appears to have turned a bit of a corner and may be heading in that direction.
"He's setting a high standard for himself," Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby told the Dan Bickley Show with Vince Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Thursday. "It's getting to the point now where if he doesn't play well, we're all disappointed. That's a great sign of his development."
But, Babby noted, Morris is still missing consistency, and every once in a while he just plain struggles.
Prior to his recent strong stretch, Morris played a total of 17 minutes in consecutive losses at Detroit and New York, scoring two points and grabbing just three rebounds. The game before that? He scored 17.
"Every once in a while he reverts for a few games," Babby said. "You can't quite put your finger on why that happens, but he was Western Conference Player of the Week already this year and now the last four or five games he is playing, again, extremely well with a lot of energy. And he's very, very talented."
Babby added that Morris is a bit of a barometer for the team, as if he plays well chances are good the Suns will be successful. In wins this season, Morris is averaging 14.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game while shooting .533 from the field. In losses? Just 8.9 points and 5.3 rebounds on .380 shooting.
Earlier in the week, Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said an increase in effort led to better play from Morris.
Whatever the reason, an effective Morris clearly makes the Suns a better team.