Bonnell: Kendall Marshall tuning up in development league

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comDecember 4, 2012 

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OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 23: Kendall Marshall #12 of the Phoenix Suns brings the ball up the court against the Golden State Warriors on October 23, 2012 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2012 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

ROCKY WIDNER — NBAE/Getty Images

Former North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall needed some minutes to improve. He wasn’t getting that on the Phoenix Suns’ bench.

So last week the Suns sent him to the team’s development-league affiliate in Bakersfield, Calif. While that sort of assignment isn’t commonplace for a lottery pick, it makes sense: Marshall wasn’t getting playing time behind Goran Dragic and Sebastian Telfair, and there’s 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 against 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. That’s what sending young draft picks to the D-League is all about. The Suns aren’t 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.

Here’s 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, he’s been everything you’d 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, he’s brought the energy and versatility they expected of him. Fixing his jump shot is the long-term plan.

No. 3 Bradley Beal, Wizards: He’s averaging 11 points and shooting 85.7 percent from the foul line. While he hits big shots, his field-goal percentage (34 percent) is unacceptable.

No. 4 Dion Waiters, Cavaliers: He’s 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: He’s not playing all that much – 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. He’ll 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. He’s 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: He’s 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), he’s a productive rebounder ( 6 per game) and shoots 56 percent from the field.

No. 10 Austin Rivers, Hornets: Obviously he’s an offense-first player, so he needs to improve on that 32 percent shooting. For now, he’s a liability on defense.

Others with Carolina ties:

No. 14 John Henson (North Carolina): He’s 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 he’s averaging 5.9 points and 42 percent from the field. He’s been a solid, if unspectacular, big man.

No. 26 Miles Plumlee (Duke): He’s playing very little for the Pacers (16 total minutes in four games). So far he’s made just one of five shots from the field.

No. 31 Jeff Taylor (Bobcats): He’s quickly becoming the most cost-effective draft pick in franchise history. He’s 11th among rookies in scoring at 8.1 points and shooting 40 percent from 3-point range.

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