Call-Up Breakdown: Kendall Marshall to the Lakers
Kobe Bryant out Ö Kendall Marshall in? Itís as crazy in reality as it sounds, considering that just 17 days ago, Marshall joined the expansion Delaware 87ers with the simple goal of reestablishing himself as an NBA-caliber player. Seven games later -- after averaging an impressive 19.4 points and 9.6 assists -- the former UNC Tar Heel is a Los Angeles Laker (see official release).
The move adds another chapter to what has already been a whirlwind pro career, despite being barely more than a year old. Marshall has taken a path rarely traveled, from lottery pick to training camp cut to the NBA D-League and back to the big show, and for a high-profile, highly touted prospect, he still has several big question marks. But the main one that will determine how the next few weeks or months or potentially years plays out (and interestingly, the contract was announced as a multi-year deal) is this:
Is the Kendall Marshall thatís entering the NBA following his stint in Delaware different from the one that arrived with the Suns last season?
In most cases, seven games is too small of a sample size to evaluate a player. But Marshall did things in those seven games with the Sevens that he simply couldnít do last season, whether in Phoenix or Bakersfield. Remember: He didnít just struggle to adapt to the NBA game; he struggled in the NBA D-League, too, shooting 31% from the field and scoring just 9.6 points in 31 minutes per game.
Thatís why from the start his performance with the Sevens was going to matter more than it would for another lottery pick expected to dominate the lower level (read our initial breakdown of Marshallís move to Delaware). His biggest adjustment revolved around his ability to overcome his limited athleticism to thrive against elite athletes, and regardless of their other shortcomings, NBA D-League players are comparable athletically to NBA players.
Among the positive results:
--Marshall made six threes (on 27 attempts) in his nine games with the Jam last season. He surpassed that total in his second game with the Sevens and shot 19 for 41 (46%) overall. See his shot chart below.
--While he still struggled to finish in the paint, he was at least able to get there more often instead of pulling up from mid-range: 21% of his shots came from mid-range compared to 34% last year.
--He ranks second in the league in assists, but first in assist percentage (the percent of his teamís field goals that he assisted) with a fantastic 43.2. For a comparison, Chris Paul leads the NBA at 51.7% while Deron Williams ranks second at 40.2.
Marshall, a pure point guard through and through, had already fared well as a floor general even at the NBA level, so his success likely hinges on whether he really has found his touch from behind the NBA three-point line, which will open up the rest of his game. One thing is certain: He has found a great fit in L.A., where the Lakers are playing point guard-less basketball in a system that revolves around point guard play.
Marshall will step in as the teamís fifth-string floor general after Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar, Steve Blake and Bryant -- yes, he and Xavier Henry were essentially playing the point alongside Jodie Meeks or Nick Young -- all went down with serious injuries. He'll leave the NBA D-League's fourth-fastest offense (108 possessions per 48 minutes) for the NBA's fourth-fastest offense (99), a pace that has allowed his talents to shine since his UNC days. If Mike DíAntoni can get 11.1 points and 7.2 assists per game out of Chris Duhon, Marshall has a chance to thrive -- just a year and four teams later than anyone expected.