How the Kendall Marshall pick impacts Steve Nash’s free agency

PHOENIX — During the opening statements of both his press briefings tonight, Suns GM Lance Blanks made it a point to urge the assembled media not to read into the Suns’ selection of the best pure point guard in the draft as an indictment of how they will handle the Steve Nash situation.

I buy that 100 percent. I do not feel the Suns will be any less inclined to pursue Nash now that they have his replacement Kendall Marshall raring to go, yet it would be negligent not to discuss the implications of this pick on Nash and the future of the Suns’ hallowed point guard position.

“I certainly can’t predict the future, but it has absolutely nothing to do with his status with this organization,” Blanks said, speaking about Nash. “We very well could have picked someone at a different position based on our board. Our position was based on the information that we have tonight, and what our needs are, which is basically at every position.

“I say that because we didn’t make the playoffs, so we have to look at ways to get better everywhere, and this was an opportunity no matter what happens in free agency. We felt he was the right guy for this organization at this time.”

However, if the Suns wanted to do everything possible to retain Nash (which should never have been a priority over making the right moves for the future), they would have selected the best available wing scorer rather than his eventual replacement, especially with a capable backup point guard under club control (Bassy) and another whose restricted rights they hold (Brooks).

As much as Nash enjoys the mentorship role, I don’t think this was the kind of improvement he was talking about to compel him to return.

On the flip side, the Suns are now covered in case Nash does move on. Instead of either being forced to endure Bassy or AB as their starting point guard (I’m not sold on either as a starting one in a league with so many good point guards) or overpaying in free agency, they now have long-term solutions at the two most important positions on the floor, the one and the five.

This pick also figures to take them out of the bidding for Goran Dragic (doubtful they would have won anyway) and seems to indicate the Suns will continue playing a fast-paced style predicated on the pick-and-roll even after Two Time moves on.

Marshall said, “I feel like some of the things I do will go hand in hand with what Phoenix likes to do with a lot of pick and rolls, decision making is one of my best attributes so I can be successful there as well as getting up and down the court. That’s true also for what we did at Carolina.”

Added UNC head coach Roy Williams, “I’ve never had a better passer. He can push the pace. If they want to keep playing like that, they got the right guy.”

By selecting Marshall apparently they do. Obviously Nash is one of the best shooters of all time whereas Marshall shot worse than 45 percent as a collegian, but in terms of style the transition should be relatively seamless.

Nash is the big question mark at the point guard spot, but it will also be interesting to see what happens with Telfair and Brooks after this pick.

Telfair’s $1.57 mil contract becomes fully guaranteed if he isn’t waived by Sunday ($550K is guaranteed regardless). He played well enough to be kept as trade bait if nothing else. Brooks was extended a $3 million qualifying offer, but it’s hard to see the Suns offering him anything long term at this point.

A Suns kind of guy

Traditionally the Suns’ franchise has been known for jettisoning knuckleheads and filling out a roster full of genuinely good guys. The new front office is attempting to establish exactly that kind of culture, and Marshall thus was an ideal high character fit.

Moreover, Blanks feels like Marshall wanted to become a member of the Phoenix Suns more than any other player in this draft, and he said that was the case last year with Markieff Morris as well.

Suns PBO Lon Babby compared the situation to taking his kids on their college visits when “sooner or later your arrive on the campus of some school and suddenly your child looks like they belong and they fit in as they walk through the halls, as they walk through the buildings and you just immediately know they’re in the right place. That was the feeling I think we had about Kendall when he was here, and that was the feeling I think he had about us. That’s a very, very important thing for us. That’s part of what we’re trying to do in building a culture.”

Babby went so far as to say Marshall is “in the mold” of the kind of player he represented for 20 years, rattling off the names of high-character players such as Grant Hill, Shane Battier, Tim Duncan and Ray Allen.

“If the quality of his play matches the quality of the character, we have a wonderful player,” Babby said. “We have to do what we say, which is to begin to build through the draft and also have players who reflect well on the organization, ownership and community. That I know will occur without hesitation as it relates to this young man. I’m proud of what he represents.”

Marshall felt that synergy as well, saying he developed the most chemistry and had the best visit with the Suns.

Considering how important it seemed to be to the front office that Marshall genuinely wants to be in Phoenix, it would seem to me that a player like Terrence Ross — who declined to work out in the Valley — would not have been seriously considered if available.

I do wonder whether the Suns would have passed on Marshall had Jeremy Lamb not been snatched up by the Houston Rockets one selection earlier.

Lamb would have fit a huge need and would have been a better pick in terms of pure talent, but I just did not see him as a “Phoenix Suns” type of player. In Marshall, on the other hand, the Suns may have their leader for the next decade, the exact kind of player the front office seems to want to build with.

With Lamb off the board, I felt Marshall was the obvious choice, but we will never know if the Suns still would have sided with the superb organizational fit in Marshall if a player with the talent of Lamb were available.

And 1

  • Blanks on what really stood out about Marshall: “I think it’s obvious but doesn’t get talked about is the best measurement for me for Kendall is he’s a winner. I don’t think you can talk about that enough because winning to this young man matters. The one thing that rang true for me is this is a winner. The other thing that will be underrated is he is special in every way, the way he handles himself, he is a class act on and off the basketball court, and I don’t think you can weigh that too much in this day and age with some of the challenges that coaches have and teams have with potential dysfunction. This is a young man that will be able to right the ship in difficult times.”
  • Blanks said the Suns tried to acquire another pick throughout the remainder of the draft but would have had to offer up too much to get back the selection.
  • Marshall (KButter5) tweeted “I can’t believe this… I’m in the NBA” and “Excited to be apart of the @PhoenixSuns! ?#PassFir5t?.”
  • Channing Frye tweeted that he loved the pick and Suns such as Jared Dudley and Josh Childress welcomed the UNC product to the Valley.

Tags: Kendall Marshall Steve Nash

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