Some NBA fans may be familiar the name, others may not.
Kendall Marshall is a former Phoenix Suns point guard. This made him a strong candidate as a point guard for the injury-plagued Laker roster. He played under Alvin Gentry, former assistant coach to Mike D’Antoni. The Suns play the same system as the Lakers do, only executing it better with the proper talent and speed on the team.
Granted, Kendall Marshall was picked up from the D-League, but let’s see what he provides offensively.
He is a definitive point guard. He provides leadership on the floor and always looks to get everyone involved. One of the most underrated passes at the NBA level is the forward-advance pass past mid-court. Guys like Kendall Marshall, Kevin Love, and recently, Jodie Meeks have used this pass to get the team an early look in mid-transition. At the University of North Carolina, he would often hit athletic bigmen for easy scores with the advance pass, or hit shooters already at the corners in rhythm with little time taken off the clock.
He has great point guard size. He’s a legit 6’4″ and isn’t likely to get outmatched. This gives him the opportunity to switch defensively between point guards and shooting guards. Jodie Meeks has defended the point guard position lately. This may contribute to his shooting slump. But, with Marshall onboard and able to switch, it’ll put less pressure on Meeks to exert himself defensively and get back to consistent perimeter shooting.
He has great hoop IQ. His assist to turnover ratio is 3:1 which is outstanding. This is a skill that has translated since his University of North Carolina days and into the NBA level. He makes smart, crisp, decisive passes that advance the basketball towards the hoop and he’s always able to hit teammates in rhythm for open shots. In this offense, predicated on open shots and transition play, that skill is highly valuable and keeps the energy and offensive flow going for the team.
The question is, why hasn’t he been able to stick on a team?
Does anyone remember the name Pepe Sanchez from the University of Cincinnati? Anyone who does is a die-hard NCAA fan. Pepe Sanchez and Kendall Marshall have some similarities as players.
Both of them are renowned for their passing abilities, but also for their lack of scoring. Marshall ended up shooting 47% behind the arc at UNC during his last year there, but at the NBA level, that percentage has dropped. His jumpshot is more of a set-shot and doesn’t seem natural or comfortable. Offensively, he’s a transition player more than a system player. He likes to push the ball for easy opportunities, but taking a pull up jumpshot behind a screen or driving hard to the basket after a good screen are afterthoughts. He is more likely to hit his roll man with a well-timed pass for the layup.
Defensive ability is an issue. Fortunately, defense is something that can be worked on. He has 6’4″ with a near 6’6″ wingspan, so there are physical tools to work with. He isn’t as adept to cutting into passing lanes and forcing turnovers, but right now, the Lakers need someone who can hold their position defensively and stop initial guard penetration. Wesley Johnson, Nick Young, Jodie Meeks, and Xavier Henry love to cut into the passing lanes and gamble a bit. Marshall can improve and provide solidarity there.
All-in-all, it’s a great signing for the Lakers considering the circumstances. Some Laker fans want the lottery pick, especially myself, but the organization always wants to put out quality basketball talent on the floor and be competitive. Kendall Marshall gives them that chance. Hopefully, he can improve and potentially be a Laker in the long-term.