Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE
The transition has been tougher for one lottery pick this year more than any other and he is still working to get better, despite his critics. Some of those critics are in high places with opinions that matter more than others.
There was a moment about six months ago that should have made time stand still, transcended the expectations for this franchise, and been a noteworthy conversation; instead it was just another comment from a General Manager that rolled off everyone's back into the next season.
Now it is noteworthy.
"He is a winner and I don't think you can talk about that enough," Suns General Manager Lance Blanks on draft day. "This is a young man that is going to be able to right the ship in difficult times. Like Markieff (Morris) last year we felt he was much better than his draft position."
On that day Blanks both drafted Kendall Marshall and set the bar as low as possible knowing that he was going to struggle in this transition, but at that point it was not perceived in that regard.
From that point on Marshall struggled in Summer League and the start to the NBA season. He lasted six games, and then seven points and five assists later Marshall was assigned to the Bakersfield Jam of the NBA Developmental League. That was the Phoenix Suns way of getting Marshall on the court because he wasn't cracking the rotation of Goran Dragic, Sebastian Telfair, and even Diante Garrett.
"This was a developmental year for him so we expected that," said Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby. The team is taking full advantage of their affiliation with the Jam to develop their young players during a difficult transition season.
This was an opportunity, not a demotion as seen widely by the public, but the success has not come on the court.
The opinion around the world of basketball however has not been that. Instead it is of a young player not playing at the highest level (NBA) and rather being given the opportunity to play at a level just below that.
It has been his time with Bakersfield that has brought back some of the criticism on Marshall's game. He came out strong with 21 points and 8 assists in his first game playing particularly well in the fourth quarter during the win. Since then he has totaled 58 points (8.28 per game) and 51 assists (7.28) along with 26 turnovers (3.71) in seven games. In those games he shot 31.5% from the field. As a point guard Marshall has been an average distributed in his eight game stint, but as a basketball player he has looked very limited.
The original plan is for Marshall to play nine games and then come back up for evaluation to see if he is ready to be apart of the main roster. He is a member of the Suns regardless, but has he done enough to come back up?
One NBA Personnel Scout assessed Marshall in a very similar manner as Blanks, but much more bluntly, "He isn't athletic, can't defend, and cannot shoot. His best asset is seeing the floor, which is useless if he cannot bring the ball up-court."
Not a new revelation as Blanks basically predicted that the night Marshall was drafted, but the way he has played for the Jam against modest NBA competition has brought those same red flags up for NBA executives around the league. That same Western Conference Scout thinks that Marshall is, "the type of player that gets you fired."
At the time of the draft Marshall was widely seen as the second best point guard in the class and was a player that played a style that would make him a good player at the NBA level, especially on a team that runs like the Suns. He took the starting job at North Carolina from Larry Drew III and never gave it back with elite play. His injury derailed a potential Final Four for the Tar Heels, that is how good and important he can be.
"Anytime you are the 12th pick in any NBA Draft you are pretty darn good," brazenly stated the announcer during a game where Marshall was going head-to-head with Jeremy Lamb, the player the Suns likely would have drafted if available.
How about anytime you are a lottery pick you are supposed to make a significant impact on the team that took you that high? That is how a lottery pick is perceived by executives and player personnel managers with NBA teams. If you cannot get value from those where can you get it?
"It is pure development from my perspective," said Blanks this week. "I think he has had some very nice successes down there and some challenges that are helping him grow. I couldn't be more pleased with his development so far down there."
There is no doubt that the Suns have to defend their guy and the player they drafted so high, but the overall consensus is starting to form across the league -- Kendall Marshall is not making the transition smoothly at all. It is far too early to assess a players career with only 15 "NBA games" under his belt, only six of which came in the NBA. Time will tell whether this call up is permanent or to be short lived