Tenth Pick Tournament Round Two: Kendall Marshall vs. Damian Lillard

Published: June 13, 2012

Mason and Jason do battle for the second time as the best two point guards in this year’s draft, Damian Lillard and Kendall Marshall, meet in the second round of the Hornets247 Tenth Pick Tournament.

Kendall Marshall

(By: Jason Calmes)

Down 1.

5 seconds left.

Inbound pass . . . dump the ball to the curling point guard . . . find his spot on the elbow, assess the defense . . . nah! f@#k it! . . . shoot . . . clang . . . and the confetti rots in the rafters while confetti memories are buried beneath ever-thickening layers of vitriol and ice cream.

Feel familiar? Feel the anger? The righteous indignation?

Who the hell are you to not look for your teammates?! Who are you to take a shot from the outside when giants are waiting to either place the ball in the basket or take an elbow shot in the face trying?!

Now decide: Do you want more of that or less of that? Do you want Damian Lillard or Kendall Marshall?

Kendall Marshall is a 6’4.25” (in shoes) 198 lb point guard from UNC. The sophomore won the starting job partway through his freshman year, then he won the Bob Cousy Award. He put up 10.7 assists per 40 minutes, pace adjusted (all such counts are on this scale), the highest in Draft Express database (started 2001-2002), along with the top pure point rating (an advanced assist-turnover metric), and third in assist-to-turnover ratio, with a 3.48. The players meeting or exceeding him in this category did not come close to his 351 assists and they looked for their own shot much more often. He is effective both in transition and in the halfcourt and can push the pace.

While you may have heard that Marshall serves the ball to his teammates but has high turnover numbers, what was not said to you was the turnovers are fueled by his drive to dish, not by carelessness or ineffective reads. Quite the contrary, actually. Historically contrary. He’ll even tell you he’s a risk-taker and needs to improve . . . exactly what he should say. Every pass has risk, and to deny this is to disrespect the opponent. His game is just so inherently unselfish that the typical metrics in isolation fail to reflect the truth about his skill and unparalleled basketball IQ.

His game is not complete, just like any other player taken tenth. His low scoring output is a by-product of passing so much, but he both knows this needs to change in the NBA and has shown the ability to change his game by way of some high output performances at the end of this season. It has been noted that sharing the backcourt with a playmaking combo guard could help his offense since has 1.35 pps when spot-up shooting.

His defense is below average one-on-one, but with a team-defense-oriented system anchored by Anthony Davis and coached by Monty Williams, this becomes less of a concern, as he’s deployed a team with average defense given many previously below average defenders. His combine showing helps this, but he is still injured.

Kendall’s supposed weaknesses are his strengths, at least on the Hornets, which is all that matters.

With Damian Lilliard, however, the opposite is true: His key strengths are weaknesses on this team. His 27.7 points came on 46.7% shooting . . . the same as Kendall. Lillard shoots well from the line and gets there often, and he turns the ball over on just 10% of his possessions . . . because he does not pass. Good thing, too . . . 1.74 assists per turnover . . . in college . . . against whom?

(This is where I remind you that we are talking about point guards.)

We are talking about point guards. At 6’2.75” (in shoes) 189 lbs, we better be talking points guards, because he can’t play any other position.

Then there is the ultimate knock: he loses focus on defense from overexertion on offense, which means he does not play.

With Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis snapping the opposition on the outside and in the paint, the Hornets win. With them staring at Lillard making his free throw face we find ourselves reading more tenth pick tournament pieces while our stars look to buy real estate on a coast not by a Gulf.

Kendall has shown the ability to change his game into what the Hornets need. Lillard has been the same and will always be the same. Sadly, this is redundant on the Hornets since they have the superior RFA Eric Gordon and can not deal him before the draft.

Kendall Marshall has, in abundance, the skills needed to make our team’s weapons their deadliest. Hornets fans have been starved for offense, but we don’t need to draft more. We already have it, or we will by the tenth pick; we need to effectively use it.

Just like we need to effectively use this pick.


Damian Lillard

(By: Mason Ginsberg)

This matchup between Damian Lillard and Kendall Marshall has been referred to by others at Hornets247 as the second round’s “marquee matchup”, but if that is the case, then that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the tournament. Lillard vs. Marshall is even less of a competition than Damian had in his easy 284-168 victory in the first round; simply put, the gap in overall talent is just too immense between these two point guards in Lillard’s favor.

Why Lillard?

Before you go on, feel free to refresh your memory on how blown away most of the top NBA draft analysts are by Lillard. Remember that this analysis was presented even before the NBA draft combine took place; since then, Lillard’s stock has risen even higher, including additional praise from ESPN’s Chad Ford. In round one, I vouched for Damian’s ability using assessments from some of the best eyes for talent in the business; this time around, I’ll take a more performance-driven approach, and trust me, the results will blow you away.

The one gripe against Lillard (and that’s not an exaggeration, it really is the only legitimate gripe that I have heard) is the lack of top-tier competition that he faced throughout his career while playing for the Weber State Wildcats. In the first round, Jake mentioned a couple sub-par games against two teams that both made the NCAA tourney, BYU and California. What he failed to mention, however, was how Lillard performed against the top NCAA tourney seed that Weber State played – 7th seeded Saint Mary’s. In that game, Lillard scored an incredible 36 points on 18 shots, playing 36 of his team’s 40 minutes, and at one point scored 21 straight points for the Wildcats. Those kinds of numbers are proof that Damian can not only excel against stiffer competition, but also do so with incredible stamina.

Also important to note is the individual challenges that Lillard faced on a nightly basis. The fact of the matter is that, apart from him, Weber State was frequently less talented than the teams that they faced. As a result, opponents knew that if they could stop Lillard, they had a good chance to win. On most of the NCAA’s better basketball teams, coaches have to scout and figure out how to limit production from multiple players in order to be successful; Lillard didn’t have this luxury playing for the Wildcats. Despite opponents consistently devising game plans focused solely on stopping him, Lillard was still able not only to succeed, but to do so while producing some of the best and most efficient numbers in all of college basketball.

Finally, what would a performance evaluation be without some statistical analysis? To start off, take a look at all college players from 2009-10 through 2011-12 who finished seasons with a PER over 33.5 and a true shooting percentage over 60%. There are only three – one will be selected by the Hornets with the first pick in this year’s NBA draft (Anthony Davis), and another finished behind only Kyrie Irving and Ricky Rubio in this year’s NBA rookie of the year voting (Kenneth Faried). The third? Damian Lillard.

Next, let’s take that same 3-season timeframe and look at single-season production from guards whose teams relied on them the most. Out of all guards with usage rates of at least 30% and turnover rates under 12%, none had a higher player efficiency rating than Damian Lillard (34.0). Coming in right behind him with a PER of 32.4 is Lehigh’s CJ McCollum, a player whose name you may not recognize now, but is already projected to be a lottery pick by Draft Express in next year’s NBA draft. Behind him? Some guy named Kemba Walker, a Naismith Award finalist last season and a top-10 pick in the 2011 NBA draft. Moral of the story? Small school or not, Lillard has been performing at an elite level this season, and his performance throughout his senior year more than justifies the high expectations of most NBA scouts.

Why not Marshall?

One word – turnovers. I don’t care how high a player’s assist rate is, or even his assist to turnover ratio; if you’re giving the ball away on almost 30% of your possessions, that is a substantial red flag. Enter Kendall Marshall; when compared to his exceptionally high assist rate, it appears as if he rarely turns the ball over. However, when his turnovers are weighed against the total amount of possessions that he actually uses, the results are staggering, and not in a good way. Over the past three college basketball seasons, among players with assist percentages of 40% or higher (a fantastic assist rate), Kendall Marshall had the absolute worst turnover rate of those players at 29.4% in the 2010-11 season. Since that was his freshman year at UNC, we could cut him a little slack; that is, if he didn’t hold the second worst percentage of 27.8% as well from his most recent season. Take a good look at the rest of the players on that list; does anyone recognize any of those other 15 names? Each of them were elite college passers, yet were not even considered as guys who could help an NBA team. What makes Marshall so much different?

So, what can we learn from this? Sure, Kendall Marshall showed off his passing ability at UNC, but he often did so at the expense of taking care of the ball. In its simplest form, Marshall made a college career out of dishing out sometimes good, but other times risky passes to his elite teammates while making a 3-pointer here and there (largely due to open looks created by his man helping off of him in favor of those more talented teammates, and even then he only made 35% of them). If you give me the choice between either a player who racks up both assists and turnovers at an incredibly high rate or someone who has the kind of multi-dimensional game that Lillard does, I cannot fathom picking Kendall over Damian.


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