Sometime around the 2016 NBA Draft, I wrote about the impact of Markieff Morris for the Wizards after they acquired the power forward from the Suns.
That Washington shipped its 2016 first round pick to Phoenix is the connection with the draft. That the team's rebounding and defensive numbers improved dramatically with Morris on board is why I'm mentioning all of this again and why I asked Marcin Gortat about it after Tuesday's shootaround.
"Well, Keef is a bigger guy. He plays bigger than he really is," Washington's primary center said of the power forward who eventually replaced the undersized Jared Dudley in the starting lineup.
"He's a tough guy. He's got this dog in him," Gortat said of Morris. "I love to go out there and compete with him. He's a guy who I know if there's going to be fists flying around, he's going to be the guy who is going to stand right there next to me. He isn't going to back down. That's great about him."
Perhaps having that rugged presence helped settle small forward Otto Porter after the All-Star break. That mean streak certainly translated into better board work and defense for the Wizards (see below). Because so much focus is on John Wall's knees and Bradley Beal's contract and the new head coach and half the roster turning over, the Morris impact is perhaps being overlooked. Whether the 27-year-old ever turns into an All-Star or not, he's got the goods to battle those types.
By the numbers, Morris can certainly be a difference maker and this time he gets to work with the Wizards from the start.
— Pre All-Star break: 39.8 (30th)
— Post All-Star break: 45.2 (6th)
Defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions):
— Pre All-Star break: 105.1 (21st)
— Post All-Star break: 101.2 (5th)
— Pre All-Star break: 23-28
—Post All-Star break: 18-13
* Morris ranked third in defensive rating (101.9) among Wizards who played at least 25 games behind Garrett Temple and Nene. He also finished second in net rating (2.4) behind Nene among those who played at least 25 games.