The Suns changed but situation didn’t for Kendall Marshall

Posted by on October 3rd, 5:17 pm

PHOENIX – It’s funny to think Kendall Marshall as the longest-tenured Phoenix Suns point guard on the roster.

The expectations of replacing Steve Nash weren’t heaped upon his shoulders when the Suns drafted the North Carolina product 13th overall in 2012, at least not by the team and especially not once Goran Dragic signed weeks later. Nonetheless, Marshall’s single season in uniform made heads shake, unfairly for a few reasons.

“I think I’ve grown the most mentally,” Marshall said at media day. “I kind of struggled confidence-wise, you know, knowing what I can and can’t do on the court last year. Even at training camp last year I was lost. Going into it (this year) I’m a lot more confident knowing what I have to do to help this team.”

Whatever the case may be, Phoenix had the chance to sign Dragic in free agency and did, giving the young Marshall time to learn from the bench. The trade for Eric Bledsoe this season and the drafting of Archie Goodwin likewise threatened Marshall’s role on the Suns. For good measure, so do the training camp presences of Ish Smith and Malcolm Lee.

Nothing changes for Marshall, as far as he’s concerned. If anything, the threat of losing playing time will act as a catalyst for the second-year point guard to improve.

“It kind of happens at different times for different guys,” Marshall said. “It doesn’t (change my role). My job as a basketball player is to get better and find ways to help my team. I’m excited about the pickups we did make.”

Marshall’s theme for himself and the team this year is to “stay the course.” As flawed as he might be in a number of ways, he’s immensely talented in one. And for who else was on the draft board, last year’s draft wasn’t all too impressive outside John Henson and Mo Harkless, who were selected immediately after Marshall. The sad state of the 2012 draft class could change, but it’s the situation just a year removed. And that’s the whole point.

Marshall only had half an NBA season as a backup point guard. And being a pass-first and pass-only point guard won’t go well on a team that last year was a terrible shooting team and less than athletic.

Coach Jeff Hornacek has said Marshall is one of the more impressive players at training camp through four days in Flagstaff, according to Paul Coro. It makes sense in a way. Marshall thrived at North Carolina in an offense that started with a rebound and turned into a track meet. Marshall’s best asset in the fullcourt is pushing the ball up with the pass, something he tried often with the Suns last season – it just resulted in turnovers.

As Ryan Weisert detailed this summer, Marshall is flawed even in the fullcourt. He has very poor acceleration and his decision-making was flatout bad; he turned the ball over on 40 percent of transition opportunities.

The good news is that both of those issues can be cured to a degree.

Marshall has trimmed down. At a legitimate 6-foot-4, he said that chasing around speedy point guards on defense is the biggest issue. The weight loss could also do him well in transition.

It’s no secret Marshall’s offensive question-marks involve his lack of athleticism and poor shooting stroke. In the Las Vegas Summer League, a topsy turvy performance by the Suns point guard overall wasn’t as inconsistent in terms of his shooting. He hit just 38 percent overall, similar to last season’s numbers, but hit 40 percent of his threes. Not so bad considering all the technical issues with a shot that moves through the air like a knuckleball.

“A lot of it is just repetition and confidence,” Marshall said of his shot. “When I shoot confidently it’s not a bad shot. Technically, the main thing I just want to focus on and remember is to get air on the ball and get it up in the air.”

Hornacek told The Arizona Republic’s Bob Young that Marshall’s release point could be a lot higher, something that likely hasn’t changed since the summer league. Even on pick-and-rolls, Marshall will have trouble finding penetration, let alone getting that low shot off.

If there’s hope that Marshall can improve, look no further than another NBA backup point guard. Denver Nuggets guard Andre Miller has a striking resemblance to Marshall as a big, less-than-athletic point guard with a wonky and low shooting stroke. When the Suns played Denver last season, Marshall picked up on the intricacies just playing against one of his personal favorites.

“In the first half, closest to that bench, he’s coming off a pick-and-roll and I’m trying to push him to our big man who’s sitting there waiting on him,” Marshall said. “All he did was — right before he curled off the screen — he’s dribbling the ball, he bumps me, takes one dribble and pulls up where I can’t contest it.”

Marshall is smart enough to see the detail. The pressure is on him to use that knowledge to improve. Considering the roster situation and the Suns needing to decide whether or not to pick up the extension for the third year of his rookie deal, he has every reason to play well in camp.

For Marshall, this season will about be earning playing time and then shucking the idea that his draft stock got a misleading boost by playing with a unique, fitting roster at North Carolina. If he keeps the team in mind rather than get caught up in his own struggles, the better off Kendall Marshall will be.

“We stay the course,” he said. “I think that should be the focus for us this year, is realizing instant gratification isn’t always going to be the best. As long as you stay the course and try to get better, the end of the season will be success.”

Kevin Zimmerman is the lead blogger and editor for Valley of the Suns. He is also editor of AZDesertSwarm.com, an Arizona Wildcats\’ blog, and a contributor at SB Nation and Pac-12.com.

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Tags: Kendall Marshall

12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 SHAZAM // Oct 3, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    in this seasons finals…the suns will beat the heat 4-3…game 7 will forever be known as “the marshal plan” because of his stat line…64 points with 72 percent shooting…27 rebounds and 32 assists..he did have one turn over that will haunt him for the rest of his life.

  • 2 Scott // Oct 3, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    I thought this was an interesting quote from Hornacek:

    “We feel our point guards, all four of them, have to put pressure on the defense to where they have to collapse and stop them from getting layups.”

    If this rule is adhered to, it should put an end to Marshall dribbling the ball up the court and passing to someone. For me, that sort of play was even more infuriating than whatever it was Beasley was attempting to do … on offense or defense.

    I hope the Suns are also running drills where Archie is at 1 and Marshall is at 2, because I think Marshall needs a lot of shaking up.

    Hunter rightly noted that Marshall has a tendency to find a comfort zone and curl up in it. That sort of behavior will take him straight out of the NBA, so I hope he’s becoming more accepting of the idea of challenging himself.

  • 3 Kevin Zimmerman // Oct 3, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    Kendall’s shot is a good example of that comfort zone. He seems a little stuck to it.

    Maybe he was blowing smoke, but at least it was good to see him speaking about the team and sort of admitting he got down on himself last season. Will be good for him to stay positive and not sulk.

  • 4 Scott // Oct 3, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    Marshall always talks a good talk.

    I haven’t seen him walk the walk yet.

  • 5 DBreezy // Oct 4, 2013 at 12:50 am

    It’s hard not to be skeptical of anything positive said about Marshall considering his play so far for the Suns and the time of year roster wise. That’s not entirely fair to him, but it is what it is.

  • 6 DBreezy // Oct 4, 2013 at 1:10 am

    @Hawki,

    From the other thread, I think it’s gonna be pretty close on that Vegas over/under win total. Not a lot of teams fall below the 20 win mark, but it’s not hard to envision a scenario where this one does. It’s a young team with a first time coach. It has no veterans that are the type to hold a team like this together. The few veterans they have are either vocal the wrong like Marcin and Shannon or quiet types like Goran, Bledsoe, or Frye.

    Even with more talent top to bottom, closing games will be even tougher than it has been in the recent past. It almost always is with young teams. I think we’ll know by midway through the November if they’re gonna to exceed that 21 win total or not. They have a fairly strong slate of games and if they start out losing a bunch of games, it’s hard to see them recovering as the season goes on. Even if the guys get along, which they should, in that situation it’s hard for individual stuff not to creep in. Marcin knows he’s a short timer auditioning for new teams. Same with Shannon. Bledsoe and Goran know they’re auditioning too. There will likely be trades as well adjusting things even more. The team has decisions to make on Kendall, and the Twins as far as option years go which could also affect how they play.

  • 7 Scott // Oct 4, 2013 at 9:06 am

    The Suns do lack players with crunch time ability and killer instinct. I’m sure those qualities are at the top of McD’s shopping list, though.

  • 8 Foreveris2long // Oct 4, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Until Marshall raises his release point on his shot, he will never be a good shooter. While he may be a little more accurate when no one cares to jump at him, that is extremely misleading because when he hits 2 or 3 defenders will be forced to play him and he will never get that shot off with the low release he currently has. If he has not changed it all summer, it is not going to change in the next 30 days.

    Comparing Marshall to Andre Miller is tough in my eyes because if you go back and look at Miller in college where he took his team to the NCAA finals (he also had NBA pro Michael Doleac) he was always an attack player. I saw a lot of his college games and he was much better than Marshall in college because he had a scoring mentality. Watching Marshall get stripped at half court in the summer league on multiple occasions by NBA wanna bees was a significant indictment of his game.It is a mindset Marshall does not have. Maybe a year in the D-League might help him but NBA defenders will not let him develop that trait while only playing 10 minutes a game at best.

  • 9 Scott // Oct 4, 2013 at 10:24 am

    I think a trade could get Marshall’s attention. So long as he doesn’t inflate it into the idea that “another team wanted me more.”

  • 10 Kendall Marshall // Oct 5, 2013 at 2:50 am

    My moves are smoother than the butter on my pancakes dawg! Watch me dominate the league K-Butters has got this!

  • 11 Noitall // Oct 7, 2013 at 9:53 am

    I think a lot of you are pretty harsh in regards to Marshall. You act like he thinks he is great. I don’t ever hear that out of him. I hear from him that he knows he has a struggle on his hands to prove himself and he is working hard at trying to get better. I am not sure what his fate is in this league, but you guys need to cut him some slack from the personal attacks. I mean, if you are going to give a guy crap about thinking he is great, then you should be slamming Shannon Brown.

  • 12 Report: Kendall Marshall going D-League route // Nov 27, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    […] This offseason, Marshall said he had lost weight and was working on improving his jump shot. […]

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