Breaking Down What Kendall Marshall Must Do to Get NBA Career on Track

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterJuly 17, 2013

April 17, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Kendall Marshall (12) drives to the basket during the second half against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center.  The Nuggets won 118-98.  Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

It shouldn't be surprising to see the Suns shop Kendall Marshall. Frankly, if Marshall wants to get his career on track, he should hope Phoenix finds a taker.

This relationship never had much of a chance to begin with. It was a bad draft decision in 2012, not because Marshall can't play, but because the fit made no sense. I'm not even talking about the fact that they signed Goran Dragic and traded for Eric Bledsoe.

The Marshall-Suns fit based on the roster and direction of the team was, and remains, illogical.

Let's first highlight Marshall's past success and attributes as a prospect.

As a sophomore at North Carolina, coach Roy Williams was able to maximize Marshall's strengths by surrounding him with plenty of scorers and finishers. Marshall had a variety of reliable options to choose from, including Harrison Barnes and Reggie Bullock on the wings, Tyler Zeller in the post, John Henson on the block and James McAdoo on the move.

And there's no doubt about itMarshall's core strength is his vision and passing. Not only does he see the court, but he's accurate. Marshall puts the ball when and where it needs to be, whether it's a bounce pass through traffic, a dribble hand-off on the perimeter or a post-entry pass that sets up a bucket.

But Marshall also lacks the one quality that practically all starting NBA point guards share: breakdown quickness and athleticism.

Marshall makes up for speed and explosion with a high IQ, vision and strong overall feel for the game.

He's got a skill that has a place in the NBA, but he'll have a tough time tapping into it with a poor supporting cast.

The roster he was drafted to was in rebuilding mode. There aren't many targets for him to hit in this lineup, which puts him in a similar situation as a young quarterback with no receivers.

In terms of his development and long-term outlook, Marshall is somewhat unique.

He's not your new-age floor general like Ty Lawson, Brandon Jennings, Kemba Walker or John Wall—point guards who can create in isolation, run circles around defenses or explode above the rim.

When I think Kendall Marshall, I think of a guy like Mark Jackson.

Jackson wasn't a speed demon or high-flyer. He wasn't a guard who can take over a game as a scorer like Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry or Kyrie Irving. Those guys got buckets, Jackson dropped dimes.

Jackson knew what dribble to make and which steps to take. He understood how to manipulate a defense—triggering the collapse, drawing the help, freeing up shooters. Jackson put his teammates in position to succeed by creating easy scoring opportunities for them in their comfort zones. 

Like Jackson, Marshall is a pure, pass-first facilitator who lacks threatening physical tools.

If I'm Marshall, my to-do checklist moving forward includes conditioning, Mark Jackson game film, nailing 300 three-pointers a day and searching for a way out of Phoenix.

As a point guard looking to find a niche in this league, Marshall is going to need reps. He has to get used to the speed and physicality of the pro game, and the only way to do that is to keep logging minutes.

I suspect he'll find a role in this league eventually, and not with the Suns.