PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns have finally found their point guard of the future.
Although it’s unknown whether Steve Nash will return next season, the Suns drafted his eventual successor Thursday night by nabbing North Carolina guard Kendall Marshall with the 13th pick in the 2012 draft.
“We are ecstatic, as happy as we were last year,” said Suns general manager Lance Blanks. “Looking at our board and who was there at the 13th pick, that was the guy we were targeting all along. We are extremely, extremely excited about having Kendall Marshall here in Phoenix.”
The Suns have been searching for a legitimate backup point guard/eventual successor ever since Nash returned to the Valley eight years ago. With Nash an unrestricted free agent, it would not be too much of a stretch to think the Suns just found his immediate replacement along with the long-term solution at the position.
Marshall did not express any preference to learning a few years behind Two Time or running a likely lottery team from day one.
“Either or,” Marshall said. “I feel like he’s one of the best to ever do it, someone I would love to learn from. At the end of the day I have no control over that decision. If he’s not there and I’m kind of just thrown into the fire, there are still some great veterans on that team that I can learn from.
(If Nash leaves), “I know it’s not going to be easy, but I’m up for the challenge. Adversity is something that I’m accustomed to having to deal with. I may take my lumps, I’m going to learn from them and I’m also going to get better.”
Marshall is an elite floor general and a special passer, the kind of point guard that doubles as an assistant coach on the floor, according to his college coaching staff.
The former Tar Heel earned the Bob Cousy Award given to the nation’s best point guard. He also broke an ACC single-season record by averaging 9.8 assists per game and an NCAA record for assists by a sophomore along with leading the nation’s second-most potent offense.
“For me Kendall Marshall is a throwback kind of a point guard,” said Suns director of player personnel John Treloar. “The last few years you’ve got the athletic guys that have come in, but I think all of the Phoenix Suns fans have seen what Steve Nash has done over the years for us and has shown what a throwback point guard does, and he’s very similar. He makes his teammates better.”
However, the reason some thought 13 was even a bit high for Marshall is due to limitations that include deficiencies in terms of shooting prowess, defense and athleticism. The Suns did not exactly draft an athlete in the mold of Derrick Rose or John Wall as the big knock on Marshall centers around how he will stay in front of speedsters like them.
“We did not get Kendall for his athleticism, and Kendall knows that,” Blanks said. “We got him for his brain, his ability to make people better, who he is off the court for our locker room. He is in perfect alignment with what we want to be about as people and as an organization. He is just a wonderful human being, he’ll make the guys around him better.
“Everything we did in terms of our process of analyzing him, there were converging lines and everything lined up from not only our analytics piece but our performance evaluation, our eyes and ears scouting, the background checks that we did, this young man is very special in every way.
“I’m not sure we can make him more athletic, but he’s all 10s everywhere else as a basketball player and person.”
- Marshall watched the draft at his home with friends, family and his agent (they ordered Chinese). He said it was “a surreal moment for all of us” when his name was called. “I was kind of stunned. I just sat there, my eyes got really wide. My family was going crazy. It really took a minute for it to sink in for me just to realize I’m a part of one of the greatest fraternities ever, playing in the NBA.”
- Marshall on his criticisms: “They are criticisms for a reason. I know I need to get better at them, and I’m excited. Obviously now there’s no school to get in the way. This is my profession, this is my job and I have no choice but to get better, so I’m not too worried about it.”
For an in-depth breakdown of the newest Sun, check out Mike Schmitz’s video/feature on Marshall.
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