Suns’ GM cites toughness, intangibles as reasons for drafting Markieff Morris

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The Phoenix Suns selected Markieff Morris with the 13th overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, and by all accounts, he was the player they wanted at that spot. While the team had interest in players like Tristan Thompson and Jimmer Fredette, they weren’t likely to be available by the time the Suns were on the clock, and Morris was a guy they worked out and had high on their list.

Suns’ GM Lance Blanks said that the way the dominoes started to fall in the draft had little to do with the team’s selection. Despite talented players like Kawhi Leonard still being on the board, there was little temptation to deviate from the plan.

“We stayed true to our process,” Blanks said. “We’re very process driven and we spent a lot of time researching every guy in the draft who we thought made sense for this organization. [Morris’] name surfaced as a possibility as we looked at the numbers, and we’re pretty excited. It all made sense based on where we had him on the board.”

Phoenix missed the playoffs last season, and a lack of consistent rebounding and interior defense from their bigs were among the reasons why. Morris should be able to immediately impact those needs, and would also seem to be a great fit for what the Suns like to do offensively. In his final season at Kansas, Morris averaged 13.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, and knocked down over 42 percent of his three-point attempts.

Morris was asked which NBA player he models his game after.

“Rasheed Wallace — without the attitude,” he said.

A little attitude wouldn’t be too bad for Phoenix, and in fact, Blanks talked about Markieff’s intangibles, and specifically his toughness as big reasons why the Suns selected him.

“All of his intangibles,” Blanks said, when asked what he liked most about Morris. “He’s tough. We have a team that is resilient, but he offers us a mental and a physical toughness that is almost impossible to quantify with numbers. He’ll be able to balance out our front line and offer us a toughness that is much needed here.”

This was Blanks’ first draft as Suns GM, and it was an important one for the franchise. By picking Morris, the team addressed some obvious needs, but more importantly, Blanks feels that the selection exemplifies the type of club that Phoenix aspires to be.

“This gives us an opportunity to lay our imprint on this organization and this team,” Blanks said. “This is our first draft choice and first opportunity through the draft to do that. So, very excited to have the opportunity for the pick but also a pick that reflects who we are and what we want to be about.”

Report: Hornets rookie Miles Bridges to compete in dunk contest

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Want to see more dunks like this and this?

Watch the dunk contest during All-Star weekend.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Miles Bridges, the No. 12 pick in last year’s draft, has quickly proven himself as belonging in the Hornets’ rotation. He’s active, capable of getting to the rim and picks up defensive concepts quickly.

But like most rookies picked in the middle of the first round, he hasn’t yet earned a national profile.

The dunk contest will be his opportunity to change that.

Bulls’ Wendell Carter reportedly out 8-12 weeks following thumb surgery

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Wendell Carter Jr. has had a strong rookie season in Chicago: 10.3 points a game, 7 rebounds, showing real strength and touch inside and getting 67 percent of his shot attempts in the paint. The advanced stats like him: He’s got an above average PER and Value over Replacement Player, something very rare for a rookie. He looks like a key part of the future in Chicago.

And he’s out for the next two-to-three months.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune first reported that Carter might have ligament damage in his left thumb requiring surgery, and that coach Jim Boylen said Carter was seeing a specialist. Shams Charania of The Athletic took it to the next step.

That’s a blow to his development but doesn’t really change the trajectory of a Bulls team that will pick high in next June’s draft.

This does not change the Bulls’ plans heading into the trade deadline — big man Robin Lopez is still available (but likely will end up a buyout candidate) reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Bobby Portis will get more run with Carter out.

The young Bulls have been hit hard by injuries this season.  Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Portis have all missed time, and Denzel Valentine has yet to play a game for Chicago this season.

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis: ‘We will never, ever tank’

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Before the season, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis stated his goals: 50 wins and the conference finals.

Washington is 19-26 and 11th in the Eastern Conference.

Time to shift priorities?

NBC Sports Washington:

Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington:

The Wizards are too talented to tank right now. Led by Bradley Beal, they have a roster of capable veterans. They just traded for Trevor Ariza, making that even more true.

As bad as they’ve been, the Wizards are just 2.5 games and three teams out of playoff position. They will likely miss the postseason, but there’s no alternative better than trying to get there. They’re too far down the road toward winning now to simply pivot into a rebuilding.

But what about if the Wizards get eliminated from playoff contention with games left in the season? They won’t tank down the stretch to improve their draft position? What’s the point of that?

And what about future seasons? Washington will have a tough time building a satisfactory winner after signing John Wall to a super-max extension that kicks in next season. That difficult-to-move contract almost mandates the Wizards prioritize the present. A healthy Wall is good enough to ensure Washington can’t bottom out – for now.

Wall be 32 in the final year of that deal. The Wizards could be in ruins by then. Taking the option to tank off the table would be a mistake.

To be fair, I’m not totally sure Leonsis is doing that. Owners almost never admit to tanking. Most deny it.

But this goes a level beyond. This is far more forceful than Leonsis had to be, which makes me believe it’s actually his plan.

That’s fine right now. Eventually, it could make a futile situation far worse.

Agent: LeBron James would play if it were playoffs

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LeBron James‘ agent, Rich Paul, gave a 3-6-week recovery timeline for LeBron’s groin injury, which the Lakers superstar suffered just over three weeks ago.

Chris Broussard on Fox Sports 1 on Wednesday:

I was in contact with Rich Paul this morning, and he told me, if this were the playoffs, that LeBron would be playing.

The Lakers have gone 5-7 without LeBron, slipping into a tie for eighth place in the Western Conference. What if LeBron feels Los Angeles could miss the playoffs without him? Would he return before fully healthy? That’s the big question.

Ideally, LeBron rests until fully recovered. Groin injuries can worsen and linger longer if played through. The only way for LeBron to get this completely behind him is sitting.

But this is also apparently an injury he could play through. It’d be hard for LeBron to watch from the sideline as the Lakers’ playoff odds drop precipitously.

Right now, they’re hanging in the mix. But any slump over the next few weeks will immediately turn attention to LeBron and how he’ll respond.