NBA Draft 2012: Could Kendall Marshall Be Steve Nash's Replacement?

Elizabeth BensonContributor IIIJune 28, 2012

GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 18:  Kendall Marshall #5 of the North Carolina Tar Heels prepares to play against the Creighton Bluejays in the third round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on March 18, 2012 in Greensboro, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns have had a trend of blowing away their first-round draft picks for the past several years. With the Suns not making the playoffs this past season and the uncertainty of their franchise player's future, more pressure was put on Phoenix's management to make their 13th pick of the 2012 NBA Draft count.

The Phoenix Suns selected guard Kendall Marshall from the University of Carolina. The 6'5'" sophomore averaged 7.8 points, 9.7 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game last season. Marshall is a pass-first player who has displayed great speed on the court during his two years in Chapel Hill. Last season, Marshall shot for 46.7 percent from the field and 35.4 percent from the three-point line.

According to Arizona Sports:

Marshall has been regarded as the best pure point guard in the draft. Last season, the 20-year-old tallied 311 assists, setting the all-time ACC record in a single season. He also recorded 17 games with 10 or more assists, preferring to distribute rather than score. Marshall ranked second in the nation in assists per game, behind only Scott Machado of Iona.

Marshall is coming off a fractured wrist suffered during the NCAA Tournament, and there are concerns about his ability to score and defend in the NBA.

Yet, it was what the Suns' pick of Marshall could be foreshadowing that was the main buzz. It appears as if Marshall could be Steve Nash's heir apparent going into next season, and the Suns seems to be preparing for a future without Nash.

The New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors and the Suns have all shown interest in signing the two-time regular season MVP. The Toronto Raptors have seemed to become the leaders for Nash in the past few days, and the Suns' pick of Marshall seems to give the Raptors a bigger advantage.

Toronto believes that if they can acquire Nash and the right role players, they could position themselves to contend for the playoffs next season. In addition, the Raptors want the appeal of having one of the most famous Canadiens, in basketball or not, on their team.

Was the pick of a pass-first, speedy point guard in Kendall Marshall a sign that the Suns aren't hopeful for Nash to remain in the Valley of the Sun, or is it a chance for Marshall to play and learn from Nash himself?

We will know the official answer after free agency, but as it stands, I would bet on the former.