Cleveland Cavaliers 89, Phoenix Suns 74 – Morris and Marshall not enough

The Cleveland Cavaliers spoiled the summer league debut of rookie point guard Kendall Marshall beating the Phoenix Suns 89-74 Tuesday night at Cox Pavillion in Las Vegas. The game was close until the Cavs seized control in the third quarter, outscoring Phoenix 33-17. The Suns failed to continue their winning ways despite 24 points and 17 boards from Markieff Morris. Cleveland was led by Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller, and former Louisville product Samardo Samuels.

In the Vegas Summer League, the final score of the game isn’t nearly as important as individual players’ performances. Coaches, like Suns assistant Dan Majerle, try to promote team play from the sideline, but a player’s future with the team depends far more on his individual talents and production then his ability to play within a system. At this level, players are fully aware of what’s at stake in each and every game. They play to show the organization what they can do. They play to prove they belong in the NBA. Thus instead of breaking down the ebb and flow of this game from a team standpoint, let’s focus instead on the individual players and how they fared in this matchup.

Kendall Marshall

Tonight marked the NBA debut of the Suns’ first-round draft pick. Marshall sat out the Suns’ first Summer League game because his contract had not yet been signed. He officially signed his contract yesterday was included in tonight’s starting lineup. He got his first career assist early, hitting Morris in transition for a layup and giving Phoenix an early 5-0 lead. This was an indicator of things to come for Kendall. When he was on the floor, Phoenix looked to push the ball in transition unceasingly.

At 6-foot-4, Marshall sees over other point guards quite well. This vision allows him to see his teammates get behind their defenders in transition, and Marshall was not afraid to throw the long pass. They didn’t all lead to buckets, but it was great to see the rookie not afraid to make mistakes. The biggest thing that stands out about Marshall is his unselfishness. On one hand, it’s difficult to complain about a point guard who is dedicated to getting his teammates involved. On the other, Marshall passed up several opportunities to take or create his own shot (he missed his only shot attempt.)

By the end of the game, the Cavs were playing a few feet off him like teams do against Rajon Rondo in crunch time. In order to keep his passing lanes open and his turnovers down (he had five TO’s to go with his five assists), Kendall will have to shoot the ball when he’s open. I’m not advocating he jack up 20-footers with 15 seconds left on the shot clock. I’m simply saying that he’ll have to make the defense respect his scoring ability to be an effective point guard in the NBA.

Markieff Morris

There’s no better way to say it: Markieff was a beast tonight. He scored from any spot he wanted to on the court. He got out in transition. He showed athleticism and versatility in the post. He scored twice on jumpers from the left block, and it’s clear that the touch on his jump shot has greatly improved from last season. The ease with which he scored was quite impressive.

As I watched him, I constantly had to remind myself that this was a summer exhibition and his points wouldn’t come quite as easily in October. That being said, Morris seems like a much improved player both physically and mentally. He relishes being the offensive focus of the team, and seems far more comfortable with the ball in his hands than he did as a rookie.

The clearest improvement I see in Markieff is his quickness. On numerous occasions he was able to blow right by his defender and either pull up for a jumper or take the ball to the rim. He could get wherever he wanted to on the floor, and he was looking to attack each and every time he caught the ball. He’s covering a lot of space with his steps and jump stops, making him a tough cover not just for his defender but also the defenders coming over to help. Morris has always had height and strength. By adding quickness and agility to his arsenal, he has made himself into a dynamic offensive threat. If he can carry the buckets of confidence he’s playing with right now over to this upcoming season he will be a big part of the Suns offense.

While his box score was really impressive, Morris could have had even more points. He missed a few easy buckets inside and had at least three jumpers go in-and-out. That being said, his most impressive stat was his 10 free throw attempts. Summer League whistles are more difficult to come by than the regular season variety. I watched every possession of this game, and Markieff drew honest to goodness contact each time he got a whistle. Ten free throw attempts show he’s asserting himself physically and inviting contact. This is a crucial development for someone who wants to make a living banging down low with NBA power forwards.

The wings

The Suns’ roster is already full of point guards (Dragic, Marshall, Telfair) and power forwards (Scola, Frye, Morris, Warrick, Beasley). The biggest team need Phoenix has right now is depth at the wing positions. Thus the players with the best opportunity to get a training camp invite are shooting guards and small forwards. The best of those so far have been Marcus Landry, DeShawn Sims, and Carlos Garcia.

Landry and Sims are inside-outside threats. Both have the range to knock down shots from beyond the arc, and both can post up smaller defenders on the block. Sims is the better penetrator of the two, but Landry is the more experienced and polished player. It will be interesting to see if either guy distinguishes himself over the next three games as it could easily come down to a choice between these two to see who gets a ticket to training camp.

As for Garcia, he has more quickness than ability. He has no problem getting past his defender, but finishing after the blow by is not his strength. He has the most athleticism of the three wings, but he is also the least polished. If he can find a way to put the ball in the bucket over the next three contests, he could be a dark horse in the race to get a training camp invite.

Despite the loss, there are some definite positives to be taken away from this one for the Suns. The team played well except for the sizable lapse in the third quarter when no one cared to box out on defense or close out on perimeter shooters. The confidence displayed by Marshall and Morris is a sign of good things to come. We will see if both of them can continue their strong play when Phoenix takes on Austin Rivers and the New Orleans Hornets tomorrow night.

Tags: Cleveland Cavaliers Kendall Marshall Markieff Morris Phoenix Suns Summer League

  • Bill_Thomas

    Where if anywhere can a box score for this game be obtained ?????????????

  • Bill_Thomas

    I’m all in on Markieff gaining, and retaining, quickness and running the floor. I’m selling all my stock in McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy’s and hoping Markieff will commit to do the very same thing.

  • Ryan Weisert

    I just added the link to the box score at the beginning of the article. Here’s the link:

  • Gosuns


  • KayGee19

    Marshall looked terrible! Your giving him way too much credit, he wasn’t driving it in he was getting burned on defense & did u see his 2 shots!? Yuck! An air 3 that wasn’t close & a blocked lay up! All he was doing was just passing the ball so the player could do something with it instead of driving & kicking, he’s going 2 be a bust hell Scot Macado is going 2 b better!

  • Tony

    Ummmmm………not to sound like a downer and actually include some objectivity, but Morris scored 24 points on 21 shots. Shooting 7-21, especially for a big, is a very poor shooting night. His defense was also very poor and he once again got into foul trouble.
    With that being said, Morris’s aggression so far has definitely been good to see, but he has to be a more efficient scorer and absolutely must learn how to play defense.

    As far as Marshall goes, he had 5TOs to go with 5 assists and scored a grand total of 0 points! Marshall gets somewhat of a pass since this was his first game, but he better step it up soon.

  • Majestic One

    Marshall suffered from never having played with his teammates before. Play making will have to be developed for his passing skills which will be lacking in these vegas games.

  • Scott

    The game I watched featured a slack, passionless Suns squad where Kendall Marshall would bring the ball to half court then pass to someone. No, he wasn’t setting them up … he’d just pass. Hey, thanks, Marshall, for bringing the ball up.

    Eventually, the team would get the ball to Morris because no one else could or would do anything. So Morris scored a lot and the team lost.

    By the end of the game, it looked to me like the Cavs could pretty well tell where the ball was going, so to keep the score from getting any tighter under Garrett’s leadership they just started hitting Morris. Eventually Majerle pulled him out.

    Diante Garrett is clearly a better PG for this unit than Kendall. Garrett would pull his weight and score, and he didn’t make the team needlessly fast break every possession.

    Hopefully things get better after this, because this was horrible. Marshall looked lazy.

    @Majestic One -

    Keep in mind that Marshall has been practicing with these guys from the start, and he only missed one actual game.

  • PennyAnd1

    Relax guys. Marshall is only testing the waters with this game. He has potential. Just be patient.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    Are we really so down on Marshall after one summer league game? I’m laughing a little bit.

    So he had a bad, terrible, HORRIBLE!!! game. Yeah we all so it. So what?

    Keep in mind, Marshall is more cerebral. A few practices aren’t enough. He needs to know who can run, who cuts, where they like it, and build on that.

    Morris doesn’t even belong in Summer League.

    Watching that game live, it’s 100% clear who the beast on the floor is. He gets what he wants and does what he wants, when he wants to do it.

    He was ferocious on the boards and really, if like six of his attempts rolled in instead of out, (because a lot of them were basically in the basket and fell back out), he would have had 30 + easily.

    I don’t really care about the score. I care about the progression of the players that we will have on the team.

    Morris is not playing around. He is absolutely focused right now. I’m very happy that these SL games are so easy for him because it should transfer very well into the regular season.

    Even with the bad game you can see what Marshall will be about. That second unit is going to be very SSOL-like if he is in fact in charge of it.

    We’ll see how he goes in his second game. I’d imagine he’ll be a bit more comfortable.

    Really pulling for some of the other guys on the team as well. PHX has some roster spots and rather than overpay anybody, if one or two of these guys can earn a trip to training camp and then a spot, I’m not bad about it.

  • Scott

    @Rich & Penny -

    I just said that game was horrible. Nothing more. No need to make it into more.

  • Scott

    @KayGee -

    I would be surprised if Scott Machado turns out to be better. But he certainly looked a lot more involved in the game than Marshall. Marshall’s performance was remarkably detached. According to, it was a case of the jitters.

    We’ll have to see if Marshall does better in the next game, which is Wed @5:30.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    @ Scott –

    Why mention me? I wasn’t calling you out. If I had a problem with what you wrote I would have addressed you.

    It’s not just this message board that’s over-reacting to Marshall’s performance. Everybody is.

  • Majestic One

    @Scott: There hasn’t been any meaningful team practice in Vegas with these guys. Summer games are often like a bunch of strangers playing together at the park.

  • DBreezy

    You can call it an overreaction to one game if you want, but I think we simply saw a good glimpse of the scouting report on him coming out of school. He’s not particularly fast or athletic, but is a great passer so he tries to compensate somewhat by trying to make long transition passes early. It didn’t take long for the Cavs to catch on. If he didn’t have the runout pass, he brought it up as slowly as DJ Strawberry, despite having a much better handle.

    I was basically reminded of his predraft comment about knowing his limitations and staying in his lane. He seemed to feel that he wasn’t as athletic as his competition and played accordingly in the halfcourt. One game is far from the end of the world, but he clearly has a long way to go athletically and shooting wise to allow him to leverage what he does wonderfully passing wise. The defenders will only get longer and faster and the schemes will be more complicated.

  • punishment39

    Steve Nash Got Donuts! the first game he played. He didn’t get his 5th assist until his 5th NBA game. Steve averaged 2.1 assists a game his first year. One summer league game with a summer league roster and some of you lose sight of the big picture. Don’t get off the bandwagon so quick!

  • Lloyd I. Cadle

    Marshall will be a first class NBA point guard. He is 20 years old-give the kid some time.

    Morris may be another Sheed in the making.

  • Scott

    @Rich and Penny -

    I can see where my post comes off more strongly than intended. It’s poorly composed. Sorry about that.

    But I do think it’s fair to say the game was a hard one to watch, and Marshall’s performance was unexpectedly stinky for a draft pick, even for a first run.

    @punishment39 -

    My only memory of a Suns preseason game when Nash was a rookie was one I saw in person – against the Vancouver Grizzlies – and Nash looked like an excellent scorer. IIRC, he scored in the 20s and 30s before the regular season started. So maybe he wasn’t dishing, but he was making up for it with scoring.

    I remember thinking at the time he was the most impressive player on the floor, and wondering why he wasn’t playing more for the Suns in the following season, because they frequently lacked scoring.

  • Joe goodman

    Scott you have to remeber looking back at Nash he’s a HOFer lets not start compareing Marshall and Nash its not Fair. If anything I see Marshall as somewhat like Rondo a PG who could Rebound and score at times but be a great Playmaker.

    And if we were going to compare Marshall to a HOF PG I’d go with Jason Kidd he seems to play the game simular to the way Marshall Could

  • Mr. Cruncher


    Your assessment of Morris is dead-on. I watched bits and pieces of the first half and absolutely agree Morris is more confident and aggressive. He also looks the part now, too. His musculature is closer to, say, Amare Stoudemire than a college kid, like last year. Summer League can be deceiving, but his improved physical tools and mentality does not lie.

    As for Marshall, he has a long ways to go, literally and figuratively, before his first NBA game. Although he will certainly improve from summer league, training camp, and preseason, I anticipate Telfair will receive more minutes than Marshall early on in the season. Anything can happen between now and the start of the regular season, but he is not even close to the level of Telfair yet — at least the Telfair from the final month of last season. Ideally as the season progresses so will Marshall’s role and minutes.

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  • Mac

    Woah, so much hate on Marshall after one game.

    First game in the NBA, everyone else has already played a game before this.

    You ever miss the first day of school, then come in the second day? Things just don’t feel quite right. Obviously there is going to be a transition period.
    I personally have high hopes for Marshall and really look forward to him shutting everyone’s mouth the way Dragic did.


    I cant Even compare Marshall to Rondo because Rondo Has one thing that Marshall doesn’t …Speed if anything he reminds me of a young Mark Jackson about the same size good passing ability struggles with his shot and not much athleticism…But mark my words Watch out for Telfair i think he is going to build off his strong second half of the season and have a breakout season this year

  • KayGee19

    We R down on Marshall because there was better players left in the draft like Tyler Zeller or John Henderson Terrence Jones or Royce White, r u seeing what he’s doing in SL! We’re getting 5 t.o a player who has an ugly shot who was getting burned on D while other players that went after him who r playing good & who’s going 2 help their teams! Marshall has bust written all over him!

  • Mr. Cruncher


    I agree Marshall will be fine in due time. It’s just a process.

  • Scott

    @Joe goodman -

    Again, I said Marshall had a remarkably stinky game. Nothing more than that. The Nash comparison only comes in response to someone else saying Nash was also bad in his rookie preseason (he wasn’t).

  • http://wdfggyuhvghj Scott

    Man, you guys bashing Marshall for this 1 performance is ridiculously stupid, one guy said the kid’s going to be a bust, Come on. For one he still has a hurt wrist, the guy severely broke his wrist in April, do you really expect him to be more than 50-60%, I broke my wrist last November and it still hurts to move it. Also it was his first game against NBA talent after just signing his contract and besides Morris there isn’t much talent out there on the floor with him. Give the guy some time to heal and get used to playing the NBA point and get used to his new team before we start bashing this kid declaring him a bust. Also, he only took 1 shot so who ever it was that said his 2 shots were horrible might want to watch the game and not the highlights if you want to accurately criticize someone’s game.

  • Jason

    Marshall at best will be a role player for a 2nd unit; he is a solid passer and great at throwing down court passes but his complete inability to score in the half court will make him an end of the rotation player. Oh yhea his D is terrible also.

    Its a shame because Tony Wroten was the best PG in this draft and Memphis snagged him in the 20′s. Wroten should have been a Sun, he will be a starter and very good player in this league for years to come while Marshall will bounce around hoping to lead a 2nd unit.

    But at least he is cerebral.

  • Greg

    @ jason….have you seen ricky rubio play? he turned out alright id say..he also cant score and he also does not have good D. marshalls passing is not solid, its a superior skill that not many PGs in the league can match. I am not saying passing alone means success, but look at rubio and what he has done in the open style of the NBA..Marshall, with NBA athletes/skills, not summer league scrubs, is where we will see his passing really surprise people and he will get everyone involved.

    assuming a second unit leader for his career is a little pessimistic, he wont start right away, who knows, maybe never, but i dont think he will “hope” to lead a 2nd unit. we all have similar concerns, but he will be a nice player one day

  • Scott L

    Did you say Tony Wroten should’ve been a Sun? I’m a die hard UW fan and Tony Wroten is as bad of a locker room guy as they come. When the team and fans are preying to god a guy who led the team in scoring as a freshman doesn’t come back to school there is something very wrong there. Wroten will be a good sixth man in the league at best because he has no work ethic and doesn’t see anything wrong with not caring about practice or his teammates. Marshall may not be a great shooter right now but with his great attitude and work ethic that is something that will get better. The summer league for first round picks is less about results and more about gaining confidence and finding out what needs to be worked on. I saw at least 15 more assists he could’ve had in the last game if the plays had gotten finished, and in the regular season at least 10 of them would’ve with guys like Gortat, Beasley and Dudley out on the floor. Again I tell you the kid isn’t healthy after severely breaking his wrist just 3 months ago. Instead of criticizeing his performance we should just be happy he’s out there working on his game right now.