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Phoenix Suns Analysis - The Marshall Plan: Slow & Steady

USA TODAY Sports

Before beginning, I want to point out the crystal-clear understanding I have in regards to 95% of the Suns' Kendall Marshall's fragile position on this Phoenix squad moving forward. Alright then.

As the Suns begin laying the foundation for what most readers here hope will be a sparkling new dynasty in a few years, there has been a lot of talk about the "leftovers" from the last regime and the expectations that those players must meet. For the most part, these expectations are straight forward and can be measured in a similar fashion because the player in question can be judged as a singular entity.

The Morri need to be better on the glass. Marcus needs to up that field goal percentage. Keef needs to stop fouling every 4.5 seconds, develop some post moves, and at least attempt to look in the direction of the basketball when it comes clanking off of the rim. Beasley needs to stop being horrible in every way possible needs to finally utilize all of that talent he brought with him out of college. These expectations are easy to monitor, because it's a simple formula of Player + growth.

The loudest rumblings seem to spiral around 2nd-year Point Guard Kendall (Ken-Doll) Marshall. A few observations in regards to what's expected of him, if I may.

  1. He needs to be more assertive
  2. He needs to get to the hole more
  3. He needs to improve his shooting
  4. He needs to be more of a facilitator, and not just "move the ball around."
  5. He needs to be better defensively

These, and more expectations are then unfairly magnified when compared to the recent acquisitions of Eric Bledsoe and rookie Archie Goodwin. Freakishly athletic attacking players who's respective styles are far more attractive to a fan base. They already do things on a high level that people just want Kendall to get respectable with. All of these things have lead those following the Suns to suggest that Ken-Doll's time in the Valley might be coming to an abrupt end.


I, for one, do not agree. Hear me out on this.


As I've touched on previously, a huge majority of players in the NBA can be monitored, and judged on how they are improving as singular entities. Judged only for what they do on the basketball court and how that helps / hurts their teams. Kendall sits outside of that evaluating arc, and has to be graded on a separate scale.


Kendall Marshall is a point guard with an ELITE set of skills who isn't an ELITE basketball player. His court vision, ability to manage a game, and past-first mentality are freakishly good, while his C-grade athleticism prevents him from being a guy who can eviscerate the game by himself. Key phrase: "by himself."


As a singular entity, judging Ken-Doll leaves a bad taste in the mouths of many. Painfully evident last season when he was assigned command of a bench unit that was about as spectacular as a moldy cheese sandwich. While other rookies were on ESPN or NBA.com highlights in a similar role, Marshall was, well, bad. That changed a little bit at the end of the season when he started seeing court time alongside Dragon and the starters, and people like me quickly started revisiting his UNC days. There it is.


Kendall Marshall by himself, being the best player on the court, is not a good thing. Kendall Marshall, stocked with advanced athletic weaponry, could be a rather dangerous individual.
He is an amplifier. An air-traffic controller. He is not the bullet or the gun, but he is the carbon-fiber digital scope, backed with satellite confirmation. It is not as simple as grading him on his own. You have to grade him for his improvements and grade him again for how much more vicious he makes the dynamic players around him. The longer and more stable the pieces are around him, the more time he has to learn and understand those pieces.


Where they like the ball on the break, who likes the bounce pass over the lob on a cut, who pops / dives off of a screen, when is his best rebounder in position to grab a board and which direction he should flare towards to get in his man's line of sight the fastest for that outlet pass while not being in the way of his breaking sprinters.
Many see him being squeezed out by the arrival of Bled an Goodwin with Dragon already in house. I see him as the flash point that propels those players and others forward. Focusing exclusively on Goodwin when the Marshall factor is applied, I see the two being a sickeningly perfect fit, especially in this approaching season

Yes, his shot is about as sure of a thing as winning PowerBall, (please play responsibly.) Yes, he needs to learn to attack the defense when coming off of a screen. Yes he needs some sort of close-range shot to cause defenses to move, (a 7-9 foot floater would do the trick.) He needs to be a better on-ball def - he will forever be assigned the corner-3 guy and we all know it. Stop it guys. But lets not forget, he's only 21, and as long as his passive aggressive streak remains confined to erased twitter posts and he's working to improve, those things will come.

He is not an instant gratification prospect. He is an investment who is already elite in an area of the game. The rest of his game will improve, and I'd personally rather it happen here, in 2-or-so seasons, when we've reloaded and his bench unit is dump-trucking opposing bench units when he isn't moonlighting with the starters.

I'm all for judging some of our other young guys more harshly with expectations of a faster return on them, but with Marshall, I'm okay with a slower (longer) wait-and-see incubation period.

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