RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Kendall Marshall

Posted by EJacoby on June 19th, 2012

The 2012 NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 28, in New York City. As we have done for the last several years, RTC’s team of writers (including Andrew Murawa, Kevin Doyle, Evan Jacoby, Matt Patton, and Danny Spewak) will provide comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 35 collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll work backwards, starting with players who are projected near the end of the first round before getting into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation.

Note: Click here for all published 2012 NBA Draft profiles.

Player Name: Kendall Marshall

School: North Carolina

Height/Weight: 6’4” / 195 lbs.

NBA Position: Point Guard

Projected Draft Range: Late Lottery / Mid-First Round

Kendall Marshall was the best passer in college basketball (Getty Images/K. Cox)

Overview: Kendall Marshall was the best passer in college basketball by a wide margin during his two seasons at North Carolina; only Iona’s Scott Machado came close to Marshall as a distributor. Marshall has elite floor awareness as well as a special ability to read defenses, and his pass-first mentality led to tremendous assist numbers playing alongside several great players at UNC. His 9.8 assists per game, 44.5% assist percentage, and 3.5 assist-to-turnover ratio as a sophomore all ranked second in the country. He led the Tar Heels to a #1 NCAA Tournament seed and was the team’s most indispensable player. After he broke his wrist late in a round of 32 win against Creighton, the Marshall-less Heels barely hung on to beat #13-seed Ohio in overtime in the Sweet Sixteen before falling to Kansas in the Elite Eight. Some people view Marshall as a ‘one-trick pony’ because he doesn’t do much else well besides passing the ball (8.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG). He also lacks the explosiveness that most NBA point guards have these days, and he really struggles defensively with limited lateral quickness. But his athletic demise seems exaggerated, as Marshall has great size (6’4”) and a strong body for a point guard and actually displayed some interesting driving and finishing ability at the rim. He wasn’t asked to create his own offense at UNC and didn’t look comfortable when he did so; he didn’t shoot the ball with confidence and simply preferred to pass to teammates in all situations. But he came on strong at the end of the season and showed some scoring prowess, plus he had decent season-long shooting numbers (46.7% from the field, 35.4% from three, 69.6% from the line). There’s untapped scoring potential in Marshall if he works hard in that area.

Will Translate to the NBA: Marshall is an elite passer and will step in as a game-changing distributor in the league. He brings great intangibles to a team, making all of his teammates better and displaying natural leadership qualities. Marshall can run an offense smoothly and become a coach on the floor to direct players on both ends. His great size will allow him to read defenses even against bigger NBA players, and he loves to run and makes every perfect pass in transition. While just an average shooter, Marshall showed a willingness to take the open threes that he will surely get in the league as defenders sag off of him.

Needs Work: Marshall has obvious weaknesses that he must improve on, starting with the defensive end. He struggles with perimeter defense due to limited lateral quickness and short arms (6’5.5” wingspan), meaning that strong guards are able to blow right by him. He finished with the sixth-slowest agility test score at the Combine, with only four centers and a wing player scoring worse. He must work hard on basic defensive principles to hold his own one-on-one. He also needs to add more scoring presence, improving everything from his outside shooting to one-on-one moves to his finishing ability at the rim. Adding a mid-range floater or pull-up jumper would do wonders for his scoring productivity. He also could rebound much better for his size.

Comparison Players: Take your pick of pure, pass-first NBA point guard, and Kendall Marshall will draw solid comparisons. But you also then have to identify someone who lacks scoring ability and struggles defensively. That all applies to a guy like Andre Miller, who’s had a long and productive career thanks mainly to his awesome floor awareness and passing skills. Marshall could also surprise some people with an improved jump shot and finishing ability, just like Ricky Rubio did as a rookie last season. Marshall will be competing with Rubio as the league’s best young passer, and perhaps its best overall passer as well.

Best Case Scenario: Marshall has special ability as an orchestrator which could afford him a long career in the NBA. At worst, he projects as a backup point who injects life into a second unit with his passing ability. But in the best case, Marshall can become much, much more than that. Should he start knocking down open shots with consistency and avoid becoming a black hole on defense, then Marshall can play heavy starter’s minutes as a championship-level point guard – just like he did at UNC. He’ll likely never make an All-Star team because of his limited explosiveness and scoring prowess, but he’s such a good passer that he can make teammates much better as a coveted asset.

Best NBA Fit: With all the great potential in Marshall’s contributions, there’s still the concern that his limitations become crippling. If he’s an obvious defensive liability who can’t shoot or score on drives, then Marshall won’t make it very far. Therefore, he needs important development time to work on his weaknesses. His best NBA fit is with a team that drafts him as its long-term starting point guard and takes all the necessary steps to develop his game. The Phoenix Suns at #13 as Steve Nash’s replacement makes sense. The same applies for Jason Kidd and the Dallas Mavericks at #17. The Houston Rockets could easily scoop him at #14 or #16, as they may end up losing Goran Dragic to free agency and are rumored to be shopping Kyle Lowry (or a re-signed Dragic) in a trade this summer.

Scout’s Take (from NBADraft.net): “UNC’s collapse after his wrist injury displayed just how integral he was to the team. Marshall might be the top passer the college game has seen since Jason Kidd.”

*This post was contributed by RTC’s Evan Jacoby. He can be found on Twitter @evanJacoby.

EJacoby (198 Posts)

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5 responses to “RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Kendall Marshall”

  1. Jeremy Pfingsten says:

    I think his game will translate well to the NBA but I imagine it will take a couple of years before he makes a starting lineup. His ability to get his team down the court will be helpful to teams like Phoenix who like to run. Being from the same college system I expect his production to be similar to Ty Lawsons when he first came in the league. The problem is I don’t see Marshall adjusting as fast.

    I also worry about his injuries and how they will impact his passing ability. He not only broke his wrist but also his elbow. If that elbow isn’t healed correctly or he is nervous about it I could see some of those laser passes losing some acceleration which would result in a lot of turnovers.


  2. J Guy says:

    Marshall broke the wrist and elbow on his right arm but he is left handed. Therefore I wouldn’t expect the injuries to affect him long term unless he is trying to use his off hand a lot.

  3. Jeremy Pfingsten says:

    Good point. I forgot it was his right hand. I think it still stands though since that guy is amazing with either hand when it comes to passing.

  4. EJacoby says:

    Good point but like J Guy said, the injuries were on the right arm & ‘K. Butter’ doesn’t think it should affect him at all once the bones heal. At least a clean break will heal 100% properly whereas muscle injuries or tendonitis, etc., are more long term problems….

    I see the Ty Lawson comparisons but in terms of actual skill set, they are very different players. Lawson does not pile up assists often, and he looks more for his scoring first. Very fast to the cup and a great finisher. Marshall should average nearly twice as many dimes as Lawson in a peak season and it’s yet to be seen if he can finish at the rim with regularity. If he can, then he’ll be in great shape in the league

  5. Jeremy Pfingsten says:

    The biggest thing that I see when comparing the two is how fast they are able to get their teams down the court. Lawson has always done it with his speed where Marshall throws some amazing full-court pass.

    Another problem I see Marshall having in the NBA is the speed of his shot when on the perimeter. His shot is verrrry slow to release. He did improve this year but he needs to work on the catch and quick-shot.

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