They will never admit this publically or even off the record to an inquiring reporter, but the Phoenix Suns were prepared to take Jeremy Lamb or Kendall Marshall with the No. 13 Overall Pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. After rounds of workouts and interviews those two seemed to sit atop the realistic short list of candidates.
Would they have went with Lamb if he was still there? We may never know because the Houston Rockets scooped him up just one pick before the Suns were on the clock.
Since then the Rockets shipped Lamb off to the Houston Rockets for James Harden and Kendall Marshall has endured 10 Did Not Play (DNP) Coaches Decisions. Neither player can control their fate at this point as Goran Dragic and Sebastian Telfair have flat out been better than Marshall while Lamb was bait for a potential All-Star.
It is a Suns fans prerogative to track the "woulda, coulda, shoulda," players like Lamb and even Harden because there was a moment in time where they could have been wearing the purple and orange. It could have been Lamb at 13 instead it was Marshall, now neither are on the roster as they head into the next phase of their NBA careers.
Now they will get the chance for major minutes in the NBA Developmental League.
Lamb was designated this morning to the Tulsa 66ers where he will be close to the Thunder and play for Serbian head coach Darko Rajakovi, a rising star in the coaching world. The D-League is like a high class version of Summer League where players have a lot of freedom to find their shot and, more importantly, their confidence.
The Bakersfield Jam will welcome Marshall to a team that features plenty of scorers and need a floor general. This is Marshall's chance to have the ball in his hands more frequently to make plays, which is why the Suns drafted him. He will be accompanied by Lindsey Hunter -- a Player Development Coach -- to Bakersfield to continue working with Marshall.
Playing behind Dragic, Telfair, and seemingly Diante Garrett from Training Camp to today has reduced Marshall to being an after thought on the end of the bench. That is something he endured at North Carolina as a freshman so the experience, the ability to battle, both resonate with the first year point guard.
For a lot of players going to the D-League is the refresher needed to get back to playing at a high level. The bridge between college and the NBA is a longer, more athletic bridge than anyone could ever imagine. In college Lamb and Marshall were giants among their peers. In the NBA they are simply trying to become peers with the giants.
Last year Marcus Morris (Suns forward Markieff Morris' brother), Josh Selby, Darius Morris, and even Jeremy Lin all spent time in the D-League before hitting their stride in the NBA. It is not inconceivable for Marshall and Lamb to have the same resurgence.
Attitude will determine the fate of a lottery pick sent to the D-League. Some have gone and floundered because they could not believe they, of all people, were subjected to a "demotion" like this. Others, as noted above, have found success because of this same situation.
Marshall is a smart kid. He gets it. This is his chance to prove beyond maturity and savvy that he is an NBA basketball player ready to make an impact this, or next season.