CHAPEL HILL, NC - DECEMBER 19: Kendall Marshall #5 of the North Carolina Tar Heels drives between defenders Lachlan Prest #2 and Shane Rillieux #21 of the Nicholls State Colonels during play at the Dean Smith Center on December 19, 2011 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. North Carolina won 99-49. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
I'm beginning to notice a trend among people writing about Kendall Marshall. Not with Carolina fans, who are overwhelmingly positive about the point guard. And as they should be, since we all remember the Larry Drew period. But among commentators at large, there's ben's spate of recent articles arguing against his prominence in college basketball. I first noticed it in this article on UNC draft prospects, where Marshall is an afterthought despite his centrality to the team and the success of Roy Williams' other point guards in the pros.
It's Drew Cannon who put it all together for me, in this article that uses his opinion that Marshall is overrated as a starting point for a rumination on point guards in general. Cannon feels that Marshall is solely a passer: "He turns the ball over a lot more than the media hype would have you believe. His shooting is subpar, and so is his defense." He goes on to say Marshall wouldn't be an All-American candidate at another school, and from there generalizes to many examples of good guards who would flounder on other teams.
On one level, this is true. Marshall would not be getting this type of press at UNCG, because his team would be awful. He'd stillness rifling passes incredibly though, and Kyle Whilliston would take notice. But Cannon underestimates how much a team and their offensive style effects the play of a point guard; with the number of offensive weapons the Tar Heels have, Marshall is going to shoot rarely, and even pass open looks in favor of better opportunities. Couple that with UNC's preferred style of play, which would ideally be all fast breaks and no set plays, and I'm shocked Marshall shoots at all.
That doesn't mean he wouldn't succeed elsewhere, though. Put him on a team that requires more offense from the point, and he'd shoot more. Slow the pace down and there's be more back door cuts. For that matter, Seth Curry could thrive in UNC's system; he'd just shoot less and play the traditional point more. How do I know? Look at Dexter Stricland, recruited as a shooting guard and thrust by necessity in to the PG role at Chapel Hill. He shoots less, drives more, and has become a defensive dynamo. And Carolina's offensive production doesn't drop when he's in and Marshall's out, despite their defenses.
Or look at Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton, both of who shot a lot less than many elite point guards, because UNC didn't require that of them as much. Both have had more success in the NBA than many of their teammates, and both can drain shots when the situation requires. Marshall may not be the most balanced point guard in the college ranks right now, but he's not being overrated, and will do just fine as time goes on. The stats only provide what the team needs.
He could stand to be a little stronger on defense though.