It was two years ago when the Phoenix Suns, manned by Lance Blanks & Co., went into damage control after the departure of Steve Nash to replenish the point guard position. They reacted well by drafting Kendall Marshall with the 13th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, who was seen at the time as a potential heir to the throne.
Then, exactly seven days later, they signed Goran Dragic to a contract.
For a team that was presumed to have a massive rebuild and overhaul happen, they loaded up at the point guard position rather abruptly. Dragic came back home, in a sense, and Marshall was to be groomed. Then there was Sebastian Telfair, who had just closed the books on his most efficient and complete season of his NBA career with the Suns. All three would give the team depth and quality in different ways as the team was slowly building itself back into contention.
Marshall was beat out by Telfair for the back-up minutes while he was on the roster (traded to Toronto midseason) and Marshall was not able to find a rhythm with the team in any way, shape, or form. He just didn't fit in.
Time in the Developmental League did nothing for Marshall. Starting here and there did nothing for Marshall.
Overall Marshall's tenure in Phoenix lasted 48 games played and ended with exactly the same amount of points (143) as assists. He was traded to the Washington Wizards by new general manager Ryan McDonough, subsequently released, and signed with the Los Angeles Lakers where he put up strong numbers in 45 starts for a team that won just 27 games total.
While Dragic and Telfair are both dynamic players that play the point guard position, neither are well known for their leadership skills. Dragic leads by example, toughness, and giving it his all on the court. Telfair leads through emotion, both good and bad, wearing it on his sleeve play after play.
Those two were ill-prepared to be babysitters for a rookie that was coming on board with his expectations and needing guidance.
Telfair said out of the gates that he was going into training camp in 2012 to win a starting job. He wore his emotions on his sleeve, fought, and won the back-up spot on the depth chart behind Dragic. Marshall went off to the D-League to start the season and he was left with Lindsey Hunter and Blanks as his leaders. When he came up to the roster not much changed.
In the locker room Marshall was disheveled, disconnected, and needed a change of scenery to get his confidence back. The situation was not conducive to his development here in Phoenix and his story is yet to be determined on whether he will be a productive NBA player long term. Two years is not enough time to determine whether a player is a "bust" or a success and situation, one of the most important elements in a young player's success, played a major part in the early struggles for Marshall here. Some of that was self-inflicted and some was caused by the situation he was thrust into.
Confidence is a fickle thing and while we do not know if Tyler Ennis, the team's first round pick this year, will be anything like Marshall in terms of attitude, it cannot pad his ego that he has three point guards ahead of him on the depth chart coming into this season.
Ennis is not the same player as Marshall by any means. From what we saw at Syracuse, he is by all accounts a more advanced leader and communicator and plays his game more with poise than flare.
Again, situation is one of if not the most important element of a rookie's transition to the NBA. Ennis' situation has a lot of parallels to what Marshall walked into two years ago. While McDonough has gained some equity with his competency in nearly every situation he has encountered as general manager, he might have made the same mistake as his predecessor in this situation.
Both Marshall and Ennis are pace-oriented point guards that are never going to win any athletic Hunger Games in this or any other league.
Both Marshall and Ennis are coming onto a roster with established point guards, none of which are considered vocal leaders that take young players under their wings.
Both Marshall and Ennis were drafted with one expectation and then a week (or so) later had that changed with talented acquisitions by the team.
What Ennis has that Marshall did not is a D-League team that is run exclusively by the Suns. He has a Suns coach, general manager, staff, and roster to work with. He has the Suns playbook to work with that allows him to be more prepared when called up to the main roster. That is huge for his development and something that Marshall did not have while here.
He also has a competent general manager and leadership group that will keep a watchful eye on his progression while in Bakersfield if he finds a permanent residency there this season.
Adding Isaiah Thomas is never a bad thing for a team, even for the Suns who have Dragic and Eric Bledsoe on the roster already. He can be a dynamic third point guard and 6th Man who wins games for you with his ability to score the ball and make plays for others. The one negative that Thomas brings to the roster is the potential stunt in Ennis's development this year going forward.
Ennis went from battling Ish Smith for rotation minutes to likely manning the Bakersfield Jam and waving a towel at the end of the bench for the Phoenix Suns.
Leadership from McDonough down to the point guard trio on the roster is going to have to keep an eye on Ennis to avoid having a repeat of the Marshall situation. He is a bright young kid, but so was Marshall, making this more than a passing issue with the roster. Ennis was drafted as an investment for the future of the team. His development is crucial to the future of the team, whether as a future rotation player contributing to wins or as an asset that brings them a roster upgrade.
Situation is conducive to success and confidence is a fickle thing to play fast and loose with. Ennis is not expected to be the leader of this team, but if he does not have direction and a leader, the Suns are doing a disservice for a young player they are responsible for. Again.