First off, I begin this piece by saying that my entire argument is a moot point if the Kings receive the number one or two overall pick and are able to draft Anthony Davis or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. With that being said, if the past five years have taught us anything, it’s that the NBA draft gods don’t smile too well on Sacramento. So, assuming Davis or Gilchrist don’t fall into our lap I believe that Kendall Marshall needs to be the pick, and here’s why.
Kendall Marshall is a sophomore point guard from the University of North Carolina who has thrived at point guard in college. In the two years Marshall has been at Carolina the team has gone 60-13 with him and 1-1 without him. He may not be a tremendous scorer (8.1 points per game) but his assist numbers were off the chart (9.7 assists per game). He’s produced 23 games with at least 10 assists in his two year career with 17 of them coming this year. Still, for those who think he’s put up those numbers against weaker competition, here’s some numbers to dispute that. Through 17 games, against the top 64 teams in the NCAA tournament, Marshall averaged 9.4 points and 9.3 assists. Not only that, but his Tar Heels were 13-4 in that span. Against Duke, their arch rivals, he averaged 17 points and 9 assists and in three games against NC State, a team that went to the sweet sixteen, he averaged 13.7 points and 11.1 assists, winning all three games. Point being, not only is Marshall talented as a point guard, he doesn’t stuff the stat sheet against the bad teams. Finally, how often do you have a shot at a point guard in a major college conference who averages nearly 10 assists per game.
Also, Marshall is a TRUE point guard in every sense of the word. He has great court vision, gets the ball to teammates and looks to get others involved first. He isn’t a "shoot first point guard" along the lines of an Allen Iverson, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose or even a Tyreke Evans. By no means is that a knock on those guys, after all, between the four of them you have 16 All Star’s, 2 MVP’s and 3 Rookies of the Year. The truth is, true point guards are a rare breed that’s hard to find. People like Steve Nash, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul transform teams and lift them to a whole other level. Take a look at Ricky Rubio. The Timberwolves had become a laughing stock in the NBA since losing Garnett (78-250 in four years) and had no real signs of coming out of it. Inset Rubio and all of a sudden the Twin Cities had a player who created wins as well as relevancy on a nightly basis. Yes, the Timberwolves are only 24-26, but with Rubio starting at point the team went 18-13 and actually mattered for a change. Am I saying Kendall Marshall will be Nash, Rondo, Paul or Rubio? No, it’s unfair to put that much pressure on someone who hasn’t played a single minute but it’s at least worth mentioning.
Some people may counter by saying that Marshall only averages eight points a game in college and could be an offensive liability in the pros. While it is true that Marshall needs to improve his scoring ability, the fact that he is offensively limited actually helps the Kings and works with what they’re doing going forward. With the scoring abilities of Evans, Thorton and Cousins it’s become clear that scoring isn’t the problem that needs to be addressed. Marshall would come in and ignite fast breaks and get teammates open looks night after night. In a perfect world Marshall would come in and average 20 and 10, but with the offensive firepower already on the roster, averaging 10 and 8 is much more productive for the future.
Still, I can see another argument brewing. People may say, "But we already have Isaiah Thomas. He’s come in and brought that spark that you’re talking about. Why don’t we stay with him and address the SF need?" Let me be the first to say that I love Isaiah Thomas. He has been a beautiful addition at the point guard position and a spark plug that’s brought together the entire team. I have only one concern with Thomas going forward, his height. Marshall stands 6’4 while Thomas is only 5’9. It’s unfair, I know, and it’s something that he can’t even control. He’s just a victim of family genetics. With that being said, except for Avery Johnson (1999 NBA Champion) and Calvin Murphy (Hall of Fame) the under six foot NBA player list reads of names like Muggsy Bogues, Terrell Brandon, Nate Robinson, and Spud Webb. They were very productive players, but couldn’t lead a team to the title. Like I said, I like Thomas, just not as the starter. If he could come in as the backup point guard and lead the second team, I think he could thrive in that role.
Kendal Marshall may not be the greatest point guard to ever come out of college or the most prolific scorer but at the end of the day he could be exactly what the Kings need. He’s a true point guard with great size for the position and a knack for winning games and facilitating others. Nothing is 100 percent but, at this point, the Kings need to start looking for players who are more worried about things other than scoring. That’s exactly what Marshall brings to a Sacramento Kings team on the rise.