What happens to a shooting specialist that can’t make shots in the game when given the opportunity?
The cold reality of professional basketball is that there are at maximum 450 roster spots available in any given year at the NBA level. Realistically maybe only 80 to 100 of those spots are even up for competition.
Marcus Landry’s shooting performances in the last two exhibition games provides the context and shape of what a missed opportunity looks like.
He’s 27 and running out of chances to prove he is a NBA player.
Marcus Landry was a late bloomer out of his native Wisconsin, becoming a 2nd-team All Big Ten selection in his senior year at the age of 23. He went undrafted but was picked up by Mike D’Antoni and the New York Knicks during the 2009-2010 season.
After only 18 appearances with the Knicks he was traded mid-season along with Nate Robinson to the Boston Celtics. He was soon waived, and began a bumpy 3-year journey across the landscape of pro basketball around the world.
He’s had his best success as a pro, in three stints in the D League, playing with the Maine Red Claws and Reno Bighorns, even making the 2013 All Star team and winning the Three Point contest. He shot 42 percent from deep last year on an unheard of 8.5 three-point attempts per game. So we know he can shoot the ball.
A larger issue is he seems to have trouble sticking on any team anywhere. He’s had short stints all over the world including stops in Puerto Rico, France, China, Venezuela, and Spain during the last 3 seasons.
When the Lakers signed Landry, it looked to be a slam dunk that he’d make the roster because they were in need of his specialty. By all accounts, he’s shot well in practice but has struggled badly in the two games he’s appeared in, shooting airballs and generally being a detriment on the floor. The problem for Landry is that he doesn’t do other things well enough to justify having him on the floor if his shot isn’t falling.
At 6’7″ he’s not lengthy enough to play at power forward, yet athletically he’s a little slow to defend small forwards. Ball-handling is not a strength as well, but he’s solid as a rebounder. More than anyone else in the Lakers’ camp his presence is tied to one skill. With rookies Ryan Kelly and Elias Harris, the team has two young developmental projects worth investing in.
This training camp has seen Xavier Henry take full advantage of his opportunity and he quite possibly has taken Landry’s roster slot in the process. At age 22 Henry, the former lottery pick, is the more appealing option than the 27 year old Landry, if you only had to pick one.
Landry is a very good shooter who could be a great fit on the back-end of playoff contending roster. Someone who can fill in with extended minutes when there’s an injury to a rotation player, or even being given a few minutes a night, like a Josh Powell when he played for the Lakers.
It remains to be seen how the roster will be shaped but Marcus Landry owes it to himself to put his best forward. He has worked hard to put himself in position for this opportunity. It would be senseless to squander it.