Kendall Marshall's rookie year ended better than it started

When the Suns spent last year’s lottery pick on Kendall Marshall, many thought he would — at worst — be the backup point guard to Steve Nash or, later on, Goran Dragic.

Instead Marshall struggled, to the point journeyman Sebastian Telfair beat him out for the job. Outside shooting, it turned out, wasn’t the only item on Marshall’s “needs to improve” list. Energy and defense were there too.

Intent on letting Marshall develop all those qualities on the floor and not the bench, the Suns sent the North Carolina standout to the D-League.

Marshall wasn’t the only rookie to get such an assignment. Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones were others. That didn’t stem the disappointment, however, for UNC’s all-time best player in terms of assists-per-game average (9.8 apg). While his outside shooting stroke and athleticism were known question marks when the Suns acquired him, Marshall’s inability to provide an immediate impact followed that other mid-first round picks, such as Robin Lopez and Earl Clark.

In his nine-game stint in the D-League, Marshall confirmed the concerns about his game, shooting just 31.3 percent from the floor, including 22.2 percent from deep. Other than his predictably good passing numbers (7.6 apg), Marshall showed little, if any, tangible improvement.

His saving grace ended up being the awkward coaching regime shift from Alvin Gentry to Lindsey Hunter. The former Director of Player Development, Hunter was one of the few within the organization who had invested significantly into Marshall after his being drafted. This was reinforced shortly after Hunter’s hiring, when the Suns traded Telfair to Toronto for Hamed Haddadi and a draft pick.

With the backup job reopened and the team well out of the playoff race, Marshall saw his playing time come to life. He averaged 18.4 minutes per game in March and April, even starting three games when the Suns elected to give Dragic a night off. Again, his assists during that span (over four per game) were impressive. His shooting (34.8 percent in March, 37.5 percent in April) was not…except this one time.

It would be presumptious to tag Marshall as a bust after one season, particularly when he produced 37 assists in the three games he started. A jump shot can be improved (just ask Jared Dudley). With Dragic in his prime and locked in through at least 2015. Marshall’s rookie contract, complete with team options and a qualifying offer, allow the Suns to keep him or dump him depending on how they feel about his progress.

Phoenix would prefer, however, to get the guy they thought they drafted in the first place.

  • Scott

    Kendall would probably play better if he had better players around him.

    Not to excuse his poor shooting or personal lack of aggression or iffy defense, but his calling card is the assist, and you can only get them if the other 4 players can score.

    The Suns’ starters were not a great offensive mix, but Marshall did do better when he was grouped with them over the 2nd unit.

    As for Marshall’s slow start … that was really due to Blanks. If he wanted Marshall to play, he needed to have traded Telfair in the offseason or earlier in the season. No way was Gentry going to go with the rookie over the vet.

    To give Blanks the benefit of the doubt, perhaps there was no opportunity to trade Telfair till the trading deadline, when Toronto found itself with no better option.

  • Scott

    DX finally has a draft video out on Franklin. The first part on his Strengths looks AWESOME, but then the part on his Weaknesses looks … much less awesome.

    The question is: what parts of his less awesome game can be resolved with coaching and what parts are inherent to his character?

    The main issues are that he was ball dominant in college, he couldn’t catch and shoot, and he wasted possessions on poor decision making, turnovers, and forcing the offense.

    In other words … his weaknesses greatly resemble those of Shannon Brown. Can he be coached out of being Shannon Brown? (Obviously, Brown could not.)

  • Scott

    DX also has Combine interviews for Adams and Dieng. There’s one for Gobert as well, but TBH I couldn’t understand half of what he said.

    Adams was late to my list, but if the Suns could draft two centers out of this draft, my preferences would be Adams and Dieng. IMO, they’d provide an excellent foundation for rebuilding.

    It sounds like Adams wants to model his game after Marc Gasol.

  • DBreezy

    Here we go yo, here we go yo, so what’s so what’s the scenario?

  • DBreezy

    Crunch for da Suns and the Bobcats

  • Forever is2long

    Scott, I can honestly say that Franklin is a much better defender and rebounder than Brown.

    As for Marshall I refuse to comment on that scrub.

  • bruce kimura

    Call me crazy but I’d rather see diante play over Marshall. Marshall can’t compete with the new age of dynamic and explosive PGs. I don’t think an improving shot and decent play making is enough to get excited about and keep us from drafting trey Burke or mccollum. Oladipo and McLemore will likely be gone. Its time to admit he was a mistake before we make another one by drafting another tweener like Bennett. I say dump him