The Phoenix Suns have gone in just a few short years from a perennial Western Conference contender to an also-ran that's the butt of jokes regarding their staggeringly inept owner. If Thursday night's NBA draft was any indication, the laughing isn't going to stop any time soon.
With their lone pick in the draft (the Suns had no second-round pick, which they traded in 2010 for Josh Childress and his not-quite three points per game last year) Phoenix selected North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall 13th overall.
Look, I get that the Suns need a point guard, especially since anyone not suffering from heat stroke knows that Steve Nash is going to get out of the Valley of the Sun faster than a snowbird once the thermometer hits triple digits.
Little inside joke for the readers who are stuck in the oven with me. 113 Friday. Ugh.
The problem is, in Marshall, who averaged just under eight points and 10 assists last year for the Tar Heels, the Suns not only didn't get a successor for Nash but they got a player who will be fortunate to develop into a quality NBA starter at all.
Granted, Marshall is an excellent passer, more than capable of carrying on the fine tradition of the likes of Nash, Jason Kidd and Kevin Johnson when it comes to finding the open man on the floor for the purple and orange.
The only problem with that is finding an open man on a team that's hurting for offense and likely will be even more once Grant Hill's 10 points per game follow Nash out the door.
Sure, center Marcin Gortat and forward Jared Dudley are solid pros. That's all they are though, and they combined to score about as many points per game as the league's top three scorers (LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant) did by themselves.
It's not as if Marshall is going to be of any help in that regard, as he's simply not an offensive player capable of creating his own shot or draining jumpers the same way that Nash (or KJ) could.
That means that a Suns team that has for the better part of the past two decades been synonymous with high-flying offense will all but certainly fail to average 100 points per game, just as they did last season.
But hey, at least Marshall will be an improvement on defense, right?
No, not really.
I'll grant you that the words "Steve Nash" and "defense" aren't generally used in the same sentence without "can't play a lick of" inserted between them, but Marshall isn't much of an improvement in that regard.
Marshall averaged about 2.5 rebounds and a steal per game last year, and as ESPN's Chad Ford pointed out while giving the Suns a "C' on his NBA draft report card, Marshall's biggest weakness is one that will be exploited ruthlessly by elite point guards such as Chris Paul of the Clippers and Russell Westbrook of the Thunder:
He might be the best passer in the draft, but his lack of lateral quickness may limit him to role player duty in the pros. If Steve Nash stays, he'll be a nice backup. If he leaves, the Suns will still need to find a starting point guard on the free agent market.
Hooray! A backup point guard for the starter we don't have! Way to take a step forward fellas!
The Suns could have added some much needed offensive punch with the likes of Iowa State forward Royce White or Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger. Sullinger would have been perfect, bad back or no. If there's one thing the Suns have that no other NBA team does it's a training staff capable of keeping players with those sorts of nagging injuries healthy. Just ask Grant Hill.
However, both of those players would have involved having some guts and taking a chance, and owner Robert Sarver hasn't shown much eagerness to do either unless he can shave costs while he's doing it.
I've been a Suns fan for over 20 years, and I'll continue to be one no matter what. With that sadly said however, while I wish I could say that picking Kendall Marshall was the first step in getting the Phoenix Suns back into contention it's more like the 18th step of the Sarver regime in tearing the franchise apart.