NBA Draft 2012: Breaking Down Kendall Marshall's NBA Prospects
I doubt many folks would disagree that UNC's Kendall Marshall was the best pure point guard in the country for the 2011-12 season. On June 28, the former North Carolina Tar Heel will be drafted by some lucky team in the 2012 NBA draft.
How “lucky” will that team be? That's what I'm here to find out.
In Part 3 of my series on the NBA prospects of Tar Heels entering the draft, I'll be breaking down Marshall's game—and what a great game it is.
There are many question marks floating around about different aspects of his game—and reasonably so. As great a pure point guard as Marshall is, he still has some deficiencies that could prevent him from being the point guard Tar Heel Nation is hoping to see in the NBA.
However, as you will see, Marshall has come up with some pretty clever ways of masking his deficiencies and that may go a long way in making his NBA career a success.
Kendall Marshall is one of the most fundamentally sound passers I have seen come out of college in a while. And with a seemingly endless repertoire of feeds, coupled with superior vision, he is probably the best pure point guard to come out of North Carolina—period.
Whether Marshall chucks it 92 feet down the court or he's hitting one of the big boys with a wrap-around in the paint, he seems to put it on point with just about every pass.
Need a lob? He can do that with excellent precision and timing, too.
In a little more than one-and-a-half years as a starter, Marshall rewrote the Carolina record books in passing efficiency. Now he holds the records for the highest season (9.8) and career (8.0) assist averages, along with the best season (3.48) and career (3.01) assist-to-turnover ratio.
On Feb. 6, 2011 against Florida State, Marshall broke the record for most assists in an ACC game, dishing out 16 dimes—also a freshman record. We witnessed him repeat the feat just a year later against Maryland.
I'm not done yet, either.
Marshall also dished out the most assists in an NCAA tournament game (14), the most 10-assist games in a season (17) and the most assists in a season (351) for a Tar Heel. That's just what he did through his sophomore year—imagine if he stayed all four.
I have yet to give out a perfect 100 score in my past breakdowns, but I have no reason to score his passing ability any lower. This aspect of his game is flawless.
As much as Kendall Marshall's fundamental passing plays a part in his efficiency, so does his vision.
I don't think I've ever seen anyone play the game of basketball more upright than he does. His stance forces his head to stay up at all times, improving his court vision. With great vision comes anticipation.
It isn't just a matter of being able to see someone open, it's a matter of seeing someone coming open. Like an elite NFL quarterback, he leads his teammates to the open spot on the floor, giving them the best opportunity to score while in motion, thereby making it harder for the defense to collapse on the recipient.
Again, check out the video of what I call the “Chapel Hill 92”. Before Marshall even receives the inbound, he knows he will be launching it down the floor to Tyler Zeller—who isn't wide open, either.
This is another reason the Tar Heels started to crumble when Marshall went down. His teammates struggled to create their own shots, as Marshall spent most of the games creating shots for them. Kendall Marshall just makes everyone on his team better—and that won't change in the NBA.
Again, this part of his game is impossible for me to knock. It's another perfect score for Kendall Marshall.
Combine superior vision with excellent passing technique and you have an impressive transition game brewing.
Marshall isn't flawless in this part of his game, however. He has so much confidence in his passing ability that he will sometimes get busted trying to thread one somewhere he shouldn't. Some of those long passes will end up in the wrong hands, but he will complete the pass more often than not.
Kendall Marshall isn't even on the same planet as Ty Lawson when it comes to foot speed in transition. He makes up for his lack of speed by passing the ball as far as possible down the court. It actually seems to take less time for him to take the team coast-to-coast than Lawson ever did.
I was flirting with scoring another 100 here, as the only real knocks on his transition game are speed and the occasional turnover. But it is a place he can improve, so the five-point reduction is warranted.
A couple months ago, I would have listed this a “con” due to Kendall Marshall's previous lack of aggression with the ball in his hand. I repeatedly knocked him for it throughout the season.
Then he decided to step up his game against Duke, in the final game of the regular season, to ensure another ACC title. Marshall was constantly working his way into the paint, dishing and scoring his way to a double-double. He finished with 20 points and 10 assists.
From that point on, Marshall showed no signs of hesitation in getting to the paint.
Point guards have to stay aggressive to keep the defense honest. They have to get in the paint to draw defenders and dish it back out. If challenged to take an open shot, they must take it—and Marshall started doing that, too.
He also did it with a precision I didn't know he was capable of. From the Duke game on, Marshall was 9-of-17 from three-point range, forcing defenders to play him tighter. That resulted in an easier path to the basket to score and feed his teammates.
Another year to solidify my belief he will stay aggressive would have gone a long way in making his score a little higher. It will also become much harder at the next level, with the size and speed of NBA players.
Believe it or not, I have heard some folks say that Kendall Marshall needs to put on some weight. That is far from the truth.
Marshall stands at 6'4” and weighs 195 pounds. That may not sound big by NBA standards, but it is for a point guard.
To debunk the myth, I averaged the height and weight of the top 10 assist men in the NBA. What I found was an average size of 6'2” and 191 pounds.
I'd be willing to bet Marshall has hit 200 pounds by now, as that weight was recorded in 2011.
As you can plainly see, size is not an issue. He actually has great height for an NBA floor general, and only two players on that list were over 200 pounds—Jose Calderon and Deron Williams.
Marshall isn't very physical, but he does have a great build for when he needs to get down and dirty at the 1. And I would actually prefer he didn't get any bigger, as that could slow him down—and he isn't particularly fast as it is.
Chalk up another perfect score for Marshall.
Kendall Marshall's inability to score with consistency is only a minor “con” at this point. We have seen an influx of scoring point guards over the last few years, but that doesn't mean all of them have to be scorers.
Take Steve Nash, for example. His highest scoring average was 18.8 points, which didn't come until his 10th season in the NBA. For his career, he averages 14.5 points per game.
Marshall is still well off that pace, however. This past season, he only averaged 8.1 points per game. But we did see him come alive in the final six games, as he got more aggressive and put up 15 points per game.
I would have liked to see Marshall for one more year, to see if his offensive production continued.
With his lack of quickness and spring, it will be much harder for him to score in the paint at the next level. He desperately needs to develop a floater to make himself more of a scoring threat. He also needs to continue working on his perimeter shooting.
Marshall is a work in progress on the scoring end of things. He could become more of a scorer, but right now I only see him maxing out around 15 points per game. Scoring will not come easy for him.
Depending on what team he lands, that may not even matter.
Con: Free Throws
Kendall Marshall doesn't get to the line very often in the first place, averaging only 2.2 attempts per game. As he got more aggressive, we did see him get to the line with a little more frequency, but still not at the pace he should.
On top of that, his shooting percentage is well below par.
In 2011-12, Marshall only converted 69.6 percent of his free throws. Rajon Rondo is still very successful in the league, even though he is only shooting 59.7 percent from the line. However, Rondo is 30th among NBA point guards—everyone else shoots 74.6 percent or better.
Going back to attempts, the average among those 30 point guards listed is 12 free-throw attempts per game. Marshall isn't in the same hemisphere when it comes to drawing contact. He has managed success without it, but getting to the line and knocking down free throws will go a long way in helping his future team.
Defense is probably one of the tougher aspects of Kendall Marshall's game I had to put a score on. Given the situation with Dexter Strickland going down, Coach Williams didn't want Marshall to play overly aggressive on defense. With only Stilman White to back up the 1, he didn't want to chance Marshall fouling out.
One thing I do know is Marshall lacks the lateral quickness to keep up with most NBA point guards when defending from the top of the key. He will get beaten pretty easily on a quick first step. Developing flawless technique and spacing will be the key to Marshall improving his defense at the next level.
Marshall's defense shouldn't be completely discounted, however.
Last season, Marshall averaged 1.2 steals per game, which would put him near the top 10 for NBA point guards. Again, that was while he was worried about picking up an unnecessary foul. That also doesn't account for all the times he has poked the ball out of the hands of a player trying to get to the rim in transition.
Marshall's defense is much better than he is given credit for, but he still displays quite a few weaknesses in that aspect of his game. I do give him the benefit of the doubt with my score, as I feel his defense will improve without having to worry so much about fouls.
The only “con” I don't think he can improve upon is his speed. There are some drills he can do to improve his quickness and agility, but it's mostly God given—and there isn't much he can do about overall speed.
Fortunately for Marshall, his overall speed doesn't matter too much when it comes to getting the ball down the court. As I explained in his transition game, he has found a way to make up for that deficiency by flinging the ball down the court as fast and far as possible.
Quickness is going to be the area he truly needs to find a way to improve. He had a pretty easy time getting by defenders in his final games as a Tar Heel, but that will be much harder at the NBA level.
One thing that helps him out, though, is his change of pace. Marshall will slow down and then speed back up when he catches the defender off balance. This makes up for his lack of a quick first step, allowing him to get by defenders much more easily than one would expect.
It's tough to judge how his lack of speed will affect him in the pros, considering he has his own ways of making up for it. It will hurt him, but I don't feel it will be to the degree many think.
Overall Score: 88
Overall, Kendall Marshall scored an 88 in my assessment of his NBA readiness. That puts him above Harrison Barnes (84) and John Henson (86), with only Tyler Zeller left to break down.
That sounds about right.
I strongly believe Kendall Marshall will be the best of the four future NBA draftees. He isn't as NBA-ready as I would like him to be, but I feel his game will translate very well to the next level.
Would he have been better off staying another year? Absolutely—as long as he didn't injure himself again. Like Henson, that is something we need to consider when we get upset about a player leaving early.
These guys saw both Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald go down with ACL tears in 2011. Barnes hurt his ankle and was never the same. Then Henson and Marshall both injured their wrists.
That can be scary for a kid, when his future relies on keeping a healthy body. Remember that, folks.
For Kendall Marshall, his success hinges on the kind of team he ends up playing for. In a past article, I discussed why the Dallas Mavericks would be a good fit for Marshall. Not only would he have scorers in place—which is significant, due to his lack of scoring—but he would be able to learn from one of the NBA greats, in Jason Kidd.
There are plenty of other good fits, but that is where I see him being able to make the best of his NBA career. If Deron Williams doesn't go there, you can bet the Mavs will be trying to snag Kendall Marshall.
Just remember where you heard it first.
For those of you that may have missed out on Part 1 and 2 of the series:
Part 1: Harrison Barnes
Part 2: John Henson