2012 NBA Draft: Thoughts on Phoenix Suns' Selection of Kendall Marshall

Ben LeibowitzCorrespondent IIIJune 28, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 11:  Kendall Marshall #5 of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks on against the Florida State Seminoles during the Final Game of the 2012 ACC Men's Basketball Conference Tournament at Philips Arena on March 11, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Phoenix Suns fans, now that your team has chosen North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall, you can kiss Steve Nash goodbye.

Okay, so I won't go that far considering that, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post, Nash says money will be a big factor in where he chooses to play next year.

The Suns can pay Nash far more than the Miami Heat, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers, and Phoenix is poised to offer Nash a two-year, $20 million deal, according to Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld.com via Twitter.

The money factor is really the only thing enticing Nash to stay in Phoenix at this point, other than familiarity with the organization.

The Suns failed to make the playoffs last season, even with the Nash Rambler playing fantastic basketball once again and leading the charge at 38 years old. With so much uncertainty surrounding the team for next season, however, it's safe to assume the Suns will not be playoff-caliber yet again.

However, the selection of Marshall makes a lot of sense for the Suns moving forward. This is especially true when you consider that scoring guards Dion Waiters, Terrence Ross, Austin Rivers and even Jeremy Lamb were all off the board at the 13th pick.

In a recent buy or sell NBA mock draft (my final mock draft before the real thing), this is what I had to say of Marshall before any Suns fan bias had kicked in:

A lot of fans and draft experts alike would sell on Kendall Marshall, but I'm not one of them.

Perhaps I'm biased towards pass-first point guards as a Steve Nash fan, but I think Marshall still brings a lot to the table.

Last season, Marshall led the nation in assist/turnover ratio, while averaging 9.8 assists per game (good for second in the nation behind Iona's Scott Machado).

Although Marshall is seen as a big liability on the defensive end of the floor, I think he has underrated athletic ability, as he has a 37" vertical leap.

In addition, many believe that Marshall is a bad shooter because he averaged just 8.1 points per game. Even though Marshall didn't pour in the points, he shot 46.7 percent from the field and 35.4 percent from beyond the arc (both highly respectable percentages).

Because Marshall would rather pass and make teammates better, he rarely looked for his shot even though he scores efficiently.

Can you tell that I'm a big fan of this guy?

In addition to being a pass-first point guard who makes teammates better, is fun to play with, has underrated athleticism and an underrated outside shot, Marshall is a proven leader.

The Tar Heels' floor general led the team to wins against Vermont and Creighton in the NCAA tournament last season, elevating his play in each game.

Against Vermont, Marshall recorded 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting to go with 10 assists.

Against Creighton, Marshall notched 18 points on 7-for-8 shooting to go with 11 assists.

Unfortunately for UNC, Marshall suffered a broken wrist in the Creighton game, and the Tar Heels, mainly small forward Harrison Barnes, struggled in his absence.

In addition, Marshall recorded 15 or more assists four different times over the course of the season, which is extremely rare for a collegiate player.

If Nash returns to the Suns roster next season, one of his key jobs will be to mentor Marshall as he develops. However, I don't see the two-time MVP returning.

Phoenix can now hand the reins to a new point guard who emulates Nash in a lot of ways.

The Suns No.13 pick very well may replace No. 13.