Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Kendall Marshall

Info

  • Measurables: 6-foot-4, 195 pounds, sophomore guard from North Carolina
  • Key Stats: 8.1 points, 9.8 assists per game, 47 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-point range
  • Projected: Top 15
  • Hickory High Similarity Score

Why I’m intrigued by this guy

Frequent commenter Mark brought up an interesting point in the comments over the weekend: what if the bigs that Pistons fans are currently debating the merits of are not really worth debating at all? What happens if the clear, definitive best player available at nine is a perimeter player? Now, Mark was making the case for hoping Perry Jones III is there, but it’s a valid point with a few players, including Kendall Marshall.

Now, I’m gonna save that small but vocal and excitable bunch in the comments some trouble: this post is not necessarily advocating that the Pistons should take Marshall and do something else with Brandon Knight. I don’t dislike Brandon Knight. In fact, I’m pretty fond of him. But Knight is actually a perfect example of what makes a player like Marshall so valuable. Knight came into last year’s draft and was picked in the lottery because he’s a point guard prospect — an athlete who still needs to learn the position but has the physical tools that would make him an elite player at that position if he ever combines the two. As we saw with Knight, he was sometimes dynamic and other times the learning curve was pretty obvious — he has a ways to go as a distributor, running a halfcourt offense and taking care of the ball, and those are not easy things to pick up on the fly. The Pistons are investing in him and hoping it pays off down the road. Marshall, on the other hand, is someone I believe will be highly sought after and climb into the lottery because he’s the rare point guard prospect these days who is a natural at the position, so the teaching element will be less of an investment. He’s a fantastic distributor. There are fewer and fewer of those in the league each season as the NBA point guard position has been trending towards more hybrid guard skillsets.

Pros for the Pistons

The biggest pro for Marshall in relation to the Pistons has nothing to do with him actually being on the Pistons. I really believe he’s a sleeper in this draft that some savvy team will grab earlier than he’s projected to go or even move up to get him. A couple of point guard needy teams — the Hornets and Blazers — are picking right after the Pistons. In fact, many draft experts have had Marshall going to the Blazers at 11 since the lottery order was announced. So if there’s another team out there that really falls in love with Marshall, the Pistons’ pick at nine is the perfect spot to try and move up to get him.

And, on the off chance the Pistons actually decided to draft Marshall? Well, as mentioned above, he’d immediately become the best distributor they’ve had in several seasons. He’d allow Knight and Rodney Stuckey to play off the ball more, and both of those guys are actually at their most effective off the ball (although the current hope is Knight will eventually grow into that distributor role). Lawrence Frank seemed to like a three guard rotation last year, and Marshall would be enough of a contrast to what Knight’s and Stuckey’s skills are that the Pistons could have a pretty dynamic backcourt attack. It’s highly unlikely, but Joe Dumars has never been afraid to take the best player regardless of positional need, so if he becomes convinced Marshall is the best guy at nine, he could theoretically take him and then figure out how the parts fit later. Marshall’s passing, ability to run an offense full-time, size for the point guard spot and ability to take care of the ball as well as hit from outside would all be big additions to the Pistons’ lineup. He’s also big for a point guard at 6-foot-4, potentially making the Pistons’ backcourt a difficult one to guard since all three primary guards would have good size. Marshall would create easy shots for everyone in Detroit’s lineup, and that’s a hugely valuable skill in today’s NBA, which has an abundance of shot-takers and a shrinking number of shot-creators.

Cons for the Pistons

Clearly, nearly everyone expects the Pistons to go big at nine because it’s an obvious, gaping hole on their roster. If they took a guard, no matter how talented, at nine, it would be an incredibly unpopular pick. Even if there’s a legit case that a player like Marshall could be better than those late lottery bigs and even if there’s a case I could make that Marshall wouldn’t be a bad addition (and he wouldn’t be), I’m not sure Dumars has the stomach for the ‘Dumars has lost it’ calls to get even louder (although, I think if Dumars picked Marshall, there would be some rejoicing in the advanced stats community, which has typically been the most vocal of the vocal Dumars critics the last few years).

What others are saying

Chad Ford:

No one has helped their draft stock more in March than Marshall. Yes, he broke his hand and was unable to play in the Sweet 16. But Carolina’s struggles without Marshall on the floor highlighted how important he was to the team. Marshall is the best passer in college basketball. He’s unselfish and makes everyone around him better. The questions for Marshall surround his lack of elite athleticism and his ability to guard the ultra quick point guards at the NBA level. Marshall also needs to improve his jump shot.

In a normal draft, a prospect like Marshall is probably a mid- to late-first round pick. However, this is a very weak point guard class and a number of teams in the lottery including the Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, New Orleans Hornets and Portland Trail Blazers all need point guards. Currently we have him ranked as the No. 2 point guard in his class behind Weber State’s Damian Lillard. Marshall’s ranked No. 17 on our Big Board but is projected to go five spots higher than that in our Mock Draft at No. 12 to the Hornets. He could go as high as No. 9 to the Jazz.

DraftExpress:

Marshall’s 10.7 assists per 40 minutes game adjusted this season rank the highest of any player in the history of our database (which goes back to 2001/2002). He’s also #1 all-time in Pure Point Ratio by a large margin, while his 3.51 Assist-Turnover Ratio ranks 3rd all-time..

When looking at Marshall’s game from an NBA perspective, his passing ability is clearly his greatest selling point, and it’s hard to overstate how good of a passer he is and how great a feel he has for managing a game.

In terms of point guard style, Marshall is a prototypical pass-first point guard taken to the extreme, as evidenced by his just 6.2 field-goal attempts per game in 32.9 minutes. He possesses an uncanny, second nature feel for the game, always instinctively playing with his head up and quickly moving the ball to the highest percentage scoring opportunity. Managing the game clearly comes very easy for him both in the half court and transition, as he looks as natural as any player in the country finding teammates for easy baskets.

What is the best thing Kendall Marshall does for his team?

Brett Friedlander (follow him on Twitter) covers the Atlantic Coast Conference on his ACC Insider blog for the Wilmington Star-News:

I’ve been covering college basketball for more than 25 years, and Kendall Marshall is one of the best — if not THE best — I’ve seen at distributing the ball to his teammates in places in which they can be most effective. He’s not the quickest point guard around, but he more than makes up for it with great vision and an even better feel for the game. While his offensive game is still a work in progress, Marshall has the ability to get to the basket when defenses try to take away his passing lanes and he started showing a greater willingness to take the open 18-20 foot jumper as the season went on. The kid isn’t a great athlete, but he’s a top point guard prospect, a leader and a winner — as evidenced by what his absence meant to North Carolina in the NCAA tournament.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v45N9ThEZfk&version=3&hl=en_US]

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