If you've not been keeping current on our assessments of potential draftees for the Portland Trail Blazers, you can find them here:
- Thomas Robinson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
- Bradley Beal
- Andre Drummond
- Harrison Barnes
- Jeremy Lamb and Dion Waiters
- Damian Lillard
- Austin Rivers
Today we look at a second point guard, one of only two consider worthy of the top half of the first round.
6'4", 198 lb North Carolina Sophomore Kendall Marshall is to point guards what Ivory is to soap: 99+44/100% pure. His list of strengths reads like a PG dream. He's smart. He sees the floor and it moves slowly for him. He makes the correct pass every time. He protects his dribble. He finds the right spot on the floor before his defender knows where it is. He's dangerous in transition, contained in the halfcourt. He's even got range on his shot as long as it's a catch-and-shoot situation. When he does get free in the lane his dishes are gourmet. His height is good. His character is right. It's like somebody opened a point guard textbook and assembled one word-for-word.
Perhaps the greatest recommendation for Marshall is that he played at a premium institution with legit talent all around him, heading deep into the NCAA Tournament, but when he went down with an injury their chances died. He wasn't the flashiest player on his team. He wasn't the stats guy. He was the captain, the guy with his hands on the wheel. Without him his team was lost.
So why is this guy projected in the middle of the first round instead of at the tippy-top in a point-guard starved league?
Unlike most players in this draft the answer doesn't revolve around unknowns. Few, if any, questions surround Marshall. There's just what he is and what he isn't. He is the best pure point guard in this draft and one of the better ones to come along in a while, period. He isn't an athlete, at least not the kind who will stand out at an NBA level. Unless and until he learns to work around it--an endeavor that will take every bit of Basketball IQ that he possesses--that deficit is going to limit his impact at the next level.
Many of the things that were second nature to Marshall in college are going to come harder in the pros. Athletic defenders might not anticipate the spot he's headed to, but even if he arrives first in his head they'll be able to correct their mistake and catch up to him before he's able to execute. They're also going to kill him on the other end of the floor, as his lateral quickness just isn't there. He's tall but his wingspan is only 6'4", so it's not like he'll be getting shots up above defenders or swiping the ball from them like Plastic Man. He didn't operate well off of the dribble, particularly in pick and roll situations, even in college. Dishing was his only real escape when he was on the move. He's going to get stopped cold off the dribble in the NBA. He won't even get into the lane to dish, let alone get free in there. He's no threat to score either, save with the most open of catch-and-shoot jumpers. Professional defenders won't respect that. Perhaps he has another level of dedication and talent that he hasn't shown yet. He's certainly smart enough to become an efficient scorer, if not an effective one. But you don't draft high on "perhaps" when the result otherwise is so predictable.
Kendall Marshall has plenty to offer the point-guard-starved Blazers. But the league scrapyard is littered with brilliant point guards who were plenty intelligent enough to play the position but didn't have the right physical makeup to prosper. Marshall probably won't bomb out but he's got "really smart reserve" written all over him. How far do the Blazers want to reach, either with their existing picks, trading down, or acquiring another, to get a guy who may well end up playing off the bench?
Weigh in below with your opinion. How would you feel if the Blazers ended up with Marshall? Where and how would you like to see him selected? How do you feel about him versus Damian Lillard, the other touted point guard in this draft?