It's not often that prospects can be contrasted in such starkly disparate terms; out of necessity, draft comparisons must rely on shades of gray and eschew absolutes. The two top point guard prospects of the 2012 class, though, challenge this notion through their remarkable opposition to one another. Damian Lillard, profiled by Will on Monday, is the score-first, sweet shooting guard from a tiny school in Utah. Kendall Marshall epitomizes the pass-first mentality and hails from one of the most famous programs in college sports.
As the draft approaches, it's become apparent that Marshall v. Lillard is hardly about just those two players. It's a debate that transcends the duo's individual skills and exists more as a referendum on team building philosophy.
Bio: Kendall Marshall was born in Dumfries Virginia and attended Bishop O'Connell High School. As a senior, Marshall won the 2010 Virginia D1 championship with Bishop O'Connell and was rated the 9th best point guard in the 2010 high school class.
Marshall committed to North Carolina, and he began his freshman year as the backup to starter Larry Drew II. however, by January, Marshall had taken over Drew's starting role, and Drew transferred to UCLA. In one of his first starts at UNC, Marshall handed out 16 assists in a win against Florida State. Marshall returned as the full-time starter for his sophomore season and has gone on to cement himself as a fringe lottery pick.
Stats/Skills: Marshall is the quintessential passer; his 11.00 pure point rating is the highest ever recorded in Draft Express' database (going back to 2001) at the collegiate level. His vision in transition is impeccable, and some of the cross-court passes he makes in the halfcourt are stunning. Simply put, there isn't a better passer I've seen at the collegiate level in many years.
From a rate perspective, his turnovers initially look bad, but that's largely a function of how infrequently he shoots. Marshall averaged just 6.9 FGA per 40 minutes (pace adjusted) as a sophomore; Lillard averaged 17.5. Turnover rate is a terrible method judging the ball-handling capabilities of pass-first point guards since assists aren't counted as "possessions." Nonetheless, Marshall does have the propensity to throw overly ambitious passes, and his 3.1 turnovers/40m is somewhat indicative of his sometimes questionable decision making.
One stat often cited as indicative of Marshall's ball-handling prowess is his lack of ball-handling turnovers. Through March 12th, Marshall had committed zero traveling or carrying violations through 1000+ minutes. It's unclear how impressed we should be by this statistic, but Marshall's handle is indeed terrific.
As a shooter, Marshall remains somewhat difficult to project. His free throw percentage (one of the most consistent indicators of shooting ability) was a paltry 69% in both his freshman and sophomore years, but his three point percentages clocked in at 38% and 35%. Marshall's release seems conducive enough to good catch and shoot ability in the pros, alongside Eric Gordon, but he's definitely not a scorer.
As DraftExpress noted in March, Marshall's 7.9 points per 40 minutes is the 2nd worst among all players projected to be drafted this year, and he doesn't get to the free throw line particularly well. But he did score 1.35 points/possession on catch-and-shoots, one of the highest marks in college basketball, and a seemingly solid indication that he could do well when Eric Gordon handles pick and roll possessions.
Marshall's foot speed is extremely worrying; defensively, he won't be able to keep too many players in front of him, and offensively, he lacks the explosion to the rim that most elite point guards exhibit after entering the paint. Andre Miller and Ricky Rubio comparisons feel particularly apt for Marshall as a result.
It's really a lot harder to sell Marshall on paper than it is Lillard .His stats, his game, and his demeanor are very often, for lack of a better word, boring. But every so often, you see a pass like this one, and, well..