Former North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall needed some minutes to improve. He wasnt getting that on the Phoenix Suns bench.
So last week the Suns sent him to the teams development-league affiliate in Bakersfield, Cal. While that sort of assignment isnt commonplace for a lottery pick, it makes sense: Marshall wasnt playing behind Goran Dragic and Sebastian Telfair, and theres only so much improvement available through practice and working out with development coach Lindsey Hunter.
After being chosen 13th overall, Marshall totaled 18 minutes in his first 14 Suns games. Then he got 16 minutes in a game last week against the Detroit Pistons. Marshall played so little that he said he was gassed after three minutes versus the Pistons. Following that game, the Suns assigned him to Bakersfield.
Marshall needs steady minutes running an NBA-style offense and game conditions to work on his outside shot. Thats what sending young draft picks to the D-League is all about. The Suns arent down on Marshall. In fact, coach Alvin Gentry sounded a little guilty when he was in Charlotte recently, discussing how hard Marshall is trying to improve his weak spots.
Heres a spot check of the 2012 draft class: Top-10 picks plus other first-rounders (and the Bobcats Jeff Taylor) with Carolina ties:
No. 1 Anthony Davis, Hornets: Averaging 16 points and 8.3 rebounds and shooting 49 percent, hes been everything youd expect from the first pick. Only issue so far has been injury causing him to miss some games.
No.2 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bobcats: At 11 points and 6.5 rebounds, hes brought the energy and versatility they expected of him. Fixing his jump shot is the long-term plan.
No. 3 Bradley Beal, Wizards: Hes averaging 11 points and shooting 85.7 percent from the foul line. While he hits big shots (including that pressure 3-pointer vs. the Bobcats), his field-goal percentage (34 percent) is unacceptable.
No. 4 Dion Waiters, Cavaliers: Hes already a significant scorer at 15.4 points per game. He has explosive potential in a good way, but can also play out of control more than occasionally.
No. 5 Thomas Robinson, Kings: Hes not playing all that much, at about 16 minutes per game. His field-goal percentage is good at 49 percent, but it seems like he should be more of a factor as a rebounder (3.9 per game).
No. 6 Damian Lillard, Blazers: He could beat out Davis for rookie of the year. Already a polished pick-and-roll point guard, averaging 18.4 points and 5.9 assists. Hell draw a lot of shooting fouls, and he makes his free throws at 84 percent.
No. 7 Harrison Barnes, Warriors: The guy could always score and that translated quickly to the NBA. Hes sixth in points per game at 10.1 and his shooting overall (46 percent) and from 3-point range (36 percent) are both strong.
No. 8 Terrence Ross, Raptors: Hes coming off the bench for Toronto and adding some energy. But at 28.9 percent, he either needs to make more 3s or stop taking them.
No. 9 Andre Drummond, Pistons: In relative limited minutes (17 per game), hes a productive rebounder (6 per game) and shoots 56 percent from the field.
No. 10 Austin Rivers, Hornets: Obviously hes an offense-first player, so he needs to improve on that 32 percent shooting. For now, hes a liability on defense.
Others with Carolina ties:
No. 14 John Henson (North Carolina): Hes averaging 6.6 points off the Bucks bench and shooting 50 percent from the field. He needs to fill out more to handle the banging big men do in the NBA.
No. 17 Tyler Zeller (North Carolina): The Mavericks traded his draft rights to the Cavaliers, where hes averaging 5.9 points and 42 percent from the field. Hes been a solid, if unspectacular big man.
No. 26 Miles Plumlee (Duke): Hes playing very little for the Pacers (16 total minutes in four games). So far hes made just one of five shots from the field.
No. 31 Jeff Taylor (Bobcats): Hes quickly becoming the most cost-effective draft pick in franchise history. Hes 11th among rookies in scoring at 8.1 points and shooting 40 percent from 3-point range.
Five passing thoughts on the Bobcats and the NBA:
• The NBA had to come down hard on Spurs coach Gregg Popovich for sending home four healthy players between road games in Florida. Roster and age management is fine, but dont pull that stuff in November on the road before a nationally televised game.
• I thought Hakim Warrick would play a lot more for the Bobcats, particularly in Tyrus Thomas absence, than he has so far. He has not shot well.
• The Atlanta Hawks might not have any one great defender, but they play excellent team defense. Thats all about communication, as in knowing when and how to cover for each others mistakes.
• Classy move by Amare Stoudemire to offer to come off the bench once hes healthy enough to return to the Knicks active roster.
• This hasnt been the smoothest transition for new Lakers coach Mike DAntoni, has it?