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Marshall a good pick only if Suns improve talent around him

Phoenix Suns GM Lance Blanks said one of the things the
team liked about Kendall Marshall was that “if you look in
his background, in his history, he’s a winner.”

Well, with the Suns likely to struggle for the next few
seasons, the theory is really going to be put to the test.

The Suns made the Tar Heel their first round pick, 13th
overall, Thursday, and the selection was not met without
some question marks. Sure, you’re not likely to get a
consensus cheer for anyone you take that late in the
lottery, but going with a guy who is not much of an
athlete, defender or scorer is a little puzzling.

Sure, Marshall is an excellent passer — he averaged 9.8
assists per game as a sophomore — and there is little
doubt he’ll be a good locker room presence and leader,
which is certainly a positive. He may be asked to backup
two-time MVP Steve Nash or, perhaps, replace him, and his
ability to dish the ball could rival that of the Suns
legend.

Unfortunately for the Suns, though, they also need
scoring, defense, rebounding and athleticism — traits
Marshall, for all the good he brings, does not possess.

Think about it: what good is a great passer if his
teammates cannot put the ball in the basket, and how
effective can a point guard be if he is not a threat to
score the ball himself? Steve Nash forces defenses to
respect his shot, and thus they leave teammates open.

Marshall, who made 47 percent of his shots as a sophomore,
is not a scorer. He knows that, and he knows he has to
improve. He thinks he will.

“Obviously now, there’s no school to get in the way,”
Marshall said. “This is my profession, this is my job. I
have no choice but to get better, so I’m not too worried
about it.”

He might very well do just that, but it will all be moot
if the talent around him doesn’t get better, and while
Marshall may ultimately be a solid player in the NBA, this
pick will only be a success if the Suns surround him with
enough talent to take advantage of his skills and mask his
deficiencies.

You know, just as they did with Nash all those years.

And while Blanks maintains this pick has nothing to do
with Nash’s impending free agency — that whether he stays
or goes, Marshall was the guy — this pick, and the team’s
future, are certainly tied to what the Suns accomplish
over the rest of the summer.

The Suns have admitted they lack a “go-to” scorer,
someone who they can pencil into the lineup and expect to
get 20 points out of every night. While there is no
guarantee they would have found that guy at 13 — in fact,
chances are they wouldn’t — they certainly don’t have him
in Marshall.

The Suns’ newest player is a pass-first point guard, part
of a dying breed of floor generals who would rather dish
the rock than put in in the bucket. The game has been
taken over by scorers, as they’ve become far more valuable
than players who can set them up.

Blanks said the Suns took Marshall because of his brains
and ability to make those around him better.

“He is in perfect alignment with what we want to be about
as people and as an organization,” he said.

That sounds nice, but it will all be for naught if
the people and organization around him don’t improve.