There’s no other way to look at it than to say Kendall Marshall has been less than impressive for the Phoenix Suns since being selected as the 13th overall pick in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft. In the same night Marshall got more playing time than he had seen almost the entire season, Marshall was informed that he was being sent down to the Bakersfield Jam, the D-League affiliate of the Suns, Hawks, Clippers, and Raptors. It’s apparent that the Suns are not satisfied with the play of Marshall, and are trying to give him an opportunity to develop, while allowing him more playing time in the D-League. Marshall will arrive to the team today, and is expected to make his debut for the Jam on Monday against the Santa Cruz Warriors.
Kendall Marshall had played only 18 minutes for the Suns this season, until last night. With the game against the Pistons clearly out of hand, and Sebastian Telfair collecting a technical foul, Suns head coach Alvin Gentry turned to Marshall late in the third quarter. Marshall, who had zero points and five assists playing only during garbage time in five of the Suns first 15 games, finally got off the snide and scored his first points as an NBA player. After the game Marshall said, “It’s a dream come true for me. Obviously, the outcome isn’t what I wanted. To be able to go out there and score my first NBA points is something to be proud of, and a starting point.” Ironically, Marshall’s first points came off a three-pointer, as he has been criticized for his lack of an outside shot. Marshall went on to play 16 minutes and finish the game 3 of 6, scoring seven points with no assists and three turnovers.
Eleven of the twelve draft picks before Marshall have already become starters, or are seeing regular playing time for their respective NBA teams. Jeremy Lamb, the number 12 draft pick of the Oklahoma City Thunder, is the only player selected above Marshall that is having the same difficulty breaking into the regular lineup for his team. There have been 54 other NBA rookies who scored prior to Marshall getting his first points last night. Kendall Marshall is being sent to the D-League after playing a combined 34 minutes, shooting 3 of 9, including 1 of 4 from three, with five assists and three turnovers for the Suns.
The Suns staff are hoping that Marshall will get the game time he needs to develop his skills and stay in shape. Speaking about his performance last night, Marshall said, “After three minutes I was gassed. I hadn’t played that long in a long time.” Once the NBA season began, Marshall had limited practice time to work on things. He was working out with player development coordinator Lindsey Hunter one-on-one, and playing in half-court games when he could.
Kendall Marshall has a few things he can work on while playing for the Jam in the D-League. He needs to learn how to lead the team and run an NBA offense. He needs to work on extending his outside shot to become more of a threat offensively, and make defenders pay for their rotations. Marshall also needs to develop better defensive skills in order to stop some of the best athletes in the world, and he needs to keep up his conditioning so he can play longer stints without getting tired.
When asked about the move to the Jam, Marshall said, “I’m trying to look at it as a positive, a time to get better, get reps and stay in shape. I don’t know if anybody thinks of this as a possibility coming out of college but, for some people, it’s part of the process and everybody has to take a different path.” Marshall came out of North Carolina as a sophomore after becoming their all-time leader in assists for a single season. That year he also set the ACC all-time assist record for a single season.
The timing seemed right for the Suns to send Marshall down, with the Suns saying they would bring him along slowly. The D-League just began for 2012, and the Bakersfield Jam have only played in two games so far this season. It is unclear just how long Marshall will remain, but it is anticipated that he may be on a nine-game assignment, which may bring him back to the Suns on Dec. 23, when they take on the Clippers in Los Angeles. Given Marshall’s performance last night, this move seems to have been planned for some time, rather than being an immediate reaction to his recent play.
When Kendall Marshall was selected by the Suns in the first round, it was anticipated that he would become the heir apparent to Steve Nash. There was still an outside chance that Marshall would have an opportunity to learn under the tutelage of Nash, but Nash ended up going to the Los Angeles Lakers and the Suns re-acquired Goran Dragic in free agency. When he finally came to the Suns, Marshall found himself fighting for as spot on the team, not only behind the new starting point guard Dragic, but also reserve Sebastian Telfair. It’s still too early to determine what sort of NBA career the 21-year old Marshall will have, but he will now have an opportunity to get the playing time necessary to work on developing that career.