Suns take Marshall with No. 13 pick
Kendall Marshall isn't the most athletic player, doesn't exactly shoot the lights out from the perimeter, isn't known for his defense.
He turned out to be just what the Phoenix Suns were looking for in the NBA draft.
After being wowed by Marshall's heady play in two seasons at North Carolina and two do-everything-right visits to Phoenix, the Suns selected the pass-first point guard with the No. 13 pick in the draft Thursday night.
''I can tell you now, we did not get Kendall for his athleticism and Kendall knows that,'' Suns general manager Lance Blanks said. ''We got him for his brain, his ability to make people better, who he is off the court, for our locker room. He is in perfect alignment with what we want to be about with people and as an organization.''
After missing the playoffs the past two seasons, the Suns' most glaring need was perimeter shooting.
But with Steve Nash set to become a free agent and Connecticut shooting guard Jeremy Lamb going to Houston the pick before, Marshall was clearly the man for the Suns.
A superb passer with good size at 6-foot-4, Marshall is a player who makes good decisions - he was among the nation's best players in assist-to-turnover ratio his two college seasons - and should be a good fit for Phoenix's up-tempo style after leading the Tar Heels up and down the floor.
''We are ecstatic,'' Blanks said. ''Looking at our board and who was there at the 13th pick, that was the guy we were targeting all along.''
Marshall looks like a good pick for the Suns whether Nash returns to the desert or not.
Nash becomes a free agent on Saturday and has numerous teams interested in signing him. Even if he does come back, Nash is 38 and point guards often need a season or two of seasoning before becoming adept at running an NBA team. What better way to learn to run the point than from a two-time league MVP?
If Nash does opt to sign somewhere else, the Suns have a player in Marshall who could be their point guard of the future, a proven winner who has the size and mindset to have success right away.
''I feel like he is one of the best who has ever done it and someone I could learn from,'' Marshall said. ''But I have no control over that decision. If he's not there and I'm just kind of thrown into the fire, there's still some good veterans there I can learn from as well as some experience to go out there in the ring of fire.''
Phoenix still hopes to re-sign Nash, who says Phoenix is still one of his top options.
Drafting Marshall was a good insurance policy, though not necessarily a sign that the Suns have lost hope of bringing Nash back.
''Kendall represents where we are as an organization,'' Blanks said. ''Don't read too far into it as far as free agency, but he represents everything we want to be about in a player and a person. But most importantly, if you look back in his history, he's a winner, and that's exactly what we want to be here, winners.''
Marshall won the Bob Cousy Award as the nation's top point guard after finishing second in the country with 9.8 assists last year as a sophomore. His 351 assists were the fourth-highest total in NCAA history and he led the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio at 3.5.
With Marshall at the point, North Carolina was one of the favorites to win last season's national title. His value became apparent when the Tar Heels fell short, losing to Kansas in the NCAA tournament's regional final - two games after Marshall broke his hand in the third round against Creighton.
Marshall said he has recovered from the injury and is looking forward to playing on the less-crowded floors of the NBA.
''There's a lot more open spaces,'' Marshall said during a conference call with Phoenix reporters. ''The college game is a little more packed in and with my ability to pass the ball, I should be able to get some guys some easy shots.''