Marcus and Markieff Morris are textbook twins, the kind that finish each other’s thoughts and feel incomplete when the other isn’t in their air space. They’ve played everything together since … forever. They never thought about attending separate colleges, choosing Kansas, together, after first committing to Memphis – then decommitting, together, over fears John Calipari wouldn’t stay throughout their college careers.
And they’d love to continue as teammates in the NBA, however unlikely that might be. One of the main selling points the stereotypical twins make to NBA teams? That as virtually indistinguishable as they are inseparable, they play nothing alike.
“Honestly, it’s not really that similar,” Marcus said at the Chicago draft combine earlier this month. “It might look similar on TV because the four and five at Kansas are interchangeable. But it’s very, very different. That’s why I kind of separated myself by working out with the (small forwards in Chicago), just to show people I can compete with them.”
Marcus is slightly smaller, more skilled and generally – thought not universally – considered the better NBA prospect than Markieff. While Marcus is considered a hybrid forward, capable of playing small forward or power forward, Markieff is a power forward/center in skill set. Though not quite as athletic as Philadelphia’s Thaddeus Young, Marcus Morris calls to mind his NBA future as someone capable of playing either forward spot and generating matchup problems.
“I started at (power forward) my freshman year and it was successful, so there was no reason for me to change,” said Marcus, who frequently played point guard for his high school team while Markieff manned the paint. “But when you get to the next level, you want to expand your game. The fours now – I just watched them work out – they’re big and physical. If I would have been out there, I would have probably been the shortest one. I definitely would have been the smallest one. I feel like I have an advantage playing the three.”
More on Marcus Morris
Size: 6-foot-8¾, 230 pounds
Age: 21 on draft night
The good: Skilled forward who can put the ball on the floor, create shots for himself and shoot with range. Played at elite college program, loaded with NBA prospects, and still averaged 17 points and 28 minutes a game.
The bad: If he’s a small forward, will he be athletic enough to exploit his size advantage? And if he’s a power forward, will he have the strength and length to hold his position and affect shots? Could be a classic tweener.
The skinny: The Pistons could be looking to beef up their frontcourt with the No. 8 pick, hoping for someone who can either score near the rim or keep others from doing so. But if they don’t like their chances to land someone like that, a potential scoring star like Marcus Morris might be their best alternative.
Marcus is one-half inch shorter and 11 pounds lighter than Markieff, Marcus standing 6-foot-8¾ in shoes and weighing 230 pounds. There will be some power forwards too big for him to handle in the post and some small forwards too explosive for him to check on the wing, but in the right system he can pose similar matchup problems at either spot.
“That’s how I’m selling myself. I can guard any position. There was a big question of me being able to slide my feet for a three. If that’s the big question, then I’m in good shape. It’s just a matter of me getting in the gym and working on it every day. That’s what I do. If somebody says I can’t do something, I’m going to strive to be better at it.”
Would the Pistons be interested in adding Morris to a roster that already includes two young hybrid forwards, Jonas Jerebko and Austin Daye, plus a power forward in Charlie Villanueva who does the bulk of his scoring from the perimeter? They would probably prefer to draft someone whose impact would be felt closer to the rim at both ends – but if the players they feel have the potential to do that are off the board by the time they pick at No. 8, then a scoring talent like Morris might be the best option.
And Morris appears to have the stuff to become a scorer potent enough to hold down a starting spot in the NBA. On a typically deep Kansas roster with many NBA prospects – in addition to Markieff, sophomore Thomas Robinson was yet another frontcourt option for the Jayhawks projected as a first-round pick had he declared – Marcus led Kansas in scoring at 17.2 points per game and finished second to Markieff in rebounding at 7.6. He shot a remarkable .570 from the field, 34 percent from the 3-point line.
He recorded 10 double-doubles during a 35-3 Kansas season, finishing with 20 points and 16 boards when the Jayhawks were upset by Virginia Commonwealth one step from the Final Four.
“He was a guard when he came to Kansas,” Markieff said. “He was forced to play as a four man, but he’s … more of a three that can play four. He’s not a four that can play three. He shoots the ball unbelievably, can dribble the ball really well. He can get shot his shot off the dribble and, in my opinion, in a couple of years he’ll be a great scorer in the NBA.”