Imagine, for a moment, that there is a human being on this earth who is more or less exactly the same as you.
Then imagine that this human (in this case, your brother) possesses — just like you — a remarkable skill.
The skill I’m referring to is of course basketball, and the human beings in question (identical twins Markieff and Marcus Morris) were good enough to be drafted with back-to-back first-round picks (No. 13 and No. 14) five years ago.
For several years, Markieff has enjoyed more success, peaking with a pretty strong all-around season — 15.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.5 bpg and 0.7 3s — in 2014-15.
Marcus, meanwhile, has posted quieter numbers. And by quieter I mean: not as good. The same year that Markieff had a small-scale breakout (2014-15), Marcus averaged 10.4 ppg.
And so it was that young Marcus (born seven minutes after Markieff) had his own subtle breakout last year: 14.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.5 apg, 0.8 spg and 1.4 3s. Certainly nothing dramatic, but he did finish with a pretty nice flourish: 16.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.4 apg, 0.9 spg and 2.2 3s (on 50.0 percent from the field) in his last 19 games, followed by 17.8 ppg in four playoff games as the Cavs swept the Pistons in the first round.
That strong finish makes Marcus’ start to this season all the more intriguing: 18.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.2 spg and 2.0 3s in his first five games. And in the process, he has shown a pretty versatile and polished offensive game, in addition to his already reliable outside shot.
Speaking of which, did I mention that Marcus is attempting 5.8 treys per game so far, up from 3.7 last year? Overall, there is a lot to like here, and even if his current average of 18.0 ppg isn’t quite sustainable (especially once volume shooter Reggie Jackson returns), there’s plenty of reason to think Morris can remain in the 16 ppg range — and a pretty useful fantasy option — going forward.
As for Markieff, he’s off to a notable start as well. Even after a six-point stink grenade Wednesday night, he’s still averaging 13.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.7 spg, 0.7 bpg and 1.3 3s — including, most notably, 33 minutes per game — through his first three outings for the Wiz this year.
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Karl-Anthony Towns: A Tale of Panic
I was all set to write this section if Towns had posted a disappointing line on Thursday night. However, after his line against the Nuggets (32 points, 14 boards, a steal, two blocks and two treys), I think we can happily find something else to worry about.
If You Expected More from Dennis Schroder…
You are not alone. But I’ll stop far short of saying we should panic. To review: In his first four games as the full-time starter in the post-Teague Atlanta landscape, the 23-year-old has averaged 13.3 ppg, 6.0 apg, 0.8 spg and 1.3 3s. Those numbers certainly have some value, but definitely don't match the expectations you had when you landed Schroder on draft day.
So what’s the issue? Overall, Schroder looks like the exact same dynamic guy who showed enough potential to send Teague out of town and earn a lucrative contract extension. The biggest problem, in my opinion, is playing time. So far, Schroder has topped 30 minutes just once in four games, and is averaging only 28 minutes per game overall.
One reason he may not be playing a ton is that his coach is making him earn it. On one occasion Wednesday night, Schroder was visibly getting yelled at by Mike Budenholzer after a careless turnover during the Hawks’ loss to the Lakers.
It also doesn’t help that Schroder’s backup, Malcolm Delaney (19 minutes per game), is a well-seasoned 27-year-old who has played a bunch in Europe, and runs things pretty competently when he enters the game.
Then again, Delaney is only shooting 30.4 percent from the field, so it’s not like he’s doing enough to threaten to turn this into a dreaded platoon.
Bottom line: The Hawks have a lot invested in Schroder (four years, $70 million), and he has still started just 20 games in his career. I recommend patience, and expect some gold Audi-caliber box scores in the near future.
Guess the Stat Line
Through his first five games of the season, the player in question has averaged:
22.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 0.8 apg, 1.8 spg, 0.4 bpg, 0.6 3s (50.6 from the field, 86.4 from the line)
Unless you’ve been hounding box scores pretty aggressively, or have the player in question on a fantasy roster, you probably didn’t guess T.J. Warren. After all, it really is one of the most surprising stat lines of the early season.
But Warren putting up numbers shouldn’t have blindsided us entirely. Yes, he was an afterthought in most leagues (I got him No. 178 in the 30-Deep draft), but we knew this much about him: The man can score. I turn your attention to last season, when — before a season-ending foot injury — Warren had a four-game stretch in late November that saw him average 19.3 ppg, then a four-game stretch at the end of December during which he put up 20.5 ppg.
So what do you do if you landed one of the season’s biggest surprises so far? Your instinct probably tells you to sell high. But given Warren’s limited resume, what are you really going to get for him? Selling high always sounds like a good idea, but there’s a good chance that most of the other owners in your league are a little hesitant to acquire Warren when he’s averaging a somewhat out of nowhere 22.4 ppg.
And if there is no great trade interest, I’ll personally offer this: Warren looks legit. There’s not necessarily one thing he does wonderfully well; he’s just an all-around savvy scorer. And two other numbers in his stat line so far offer a whole lot of encouragement: his minutes (36) and shots per game (17.8).
Sure, some more 3s would be nice, as would flipping Warren straight-up to some idiot in your league for Jimmy Butler. But that’s not happening, so for now, you might as well set your clock to Mountain Standard Time and enjoy the show.
Other Random Thoughts: If you drafted Brook Lopez, I think you need to put on your trading helmet and see what big-name player you can get for him ASAP. Already having one night of rest in his game log is pretty disconcerting, especially considering that Brooklyn is likely to end up being well out of the playoff picture before too long. Don’t overplay your hand trying to get rid of him, but right now — coming off a 34-point, 11-board, four-trey explosion — is a pretty good time to casually* send out some offers. … I mentioned T.J. Warren’s stat line as surprising. How about this from Avery Bradley? 20.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 4.0 apg, 3.0 3s. I certainly don’t expect Bradley to maintain this lofty pace — especially considering that his career-high in rebounds before this year was 3.8, and his career-high in assists was 2.1. But there’s little doubt that the 25-year-old, previously a points/steals/3s specialist, has expanded his game quite a bit. … Devin Booker’s minutes (34) and shot attempts (16.0) are right where they should be, but he’s shooting just 39.1 from the field, 4-of-17 on 3s and 7-of-14 from the line. You never want to bench a high draft pick this early, but it’s time to bench him until we see some sort of positive sign (which will hopefully come against the 0-5 Pelicans on Friday night).
*By casually, I mean desperately, but with a casual air.