With Kobe Bryant sidelined at least 6 weeks and all three point guards on the shelf injured, the Lakers needed to add a warm body who can initiate an offense and soak up some minutes at the lead guard spot. Late Thursday night, they have done just that, adding 2nd year point guard Kendall Marshall.
Marshall was the Suns’ 1st round pick last season (13th overall) but sat behind Goran Dragic and Sebastian Telfair nearly all season. Heading into this year, he was looking to establish himself as a rotation player but with the Suns trade for Eric Bledsoe, and the regime who drafted him shown the door, he was traded as part of the Marcin Gortat to the Wizards deal that got Phoenix a first round pick in the upcoming draft. The Wizards, however, promptly waived him as they too were comfortable with their point guard rotation of John Wall and Eric Maynor.
Marshall then took his talents to the D-League, catching on with the 76ers affiliate Delaware 87ers where he averaged 19.7 points and 9.6 assists in nearly 37 minutes a game over the 7 contests he played.
On the surface, this signing fits right in with what the Lakers have done in the past year. Marshall has a nice pedigree as a prospect but, for a variety of reasons, hasn’t really shown he’s capable of playing in the NBA to this point in his career. His shooting numbers in his lone season with the Suns were not good and the fact that the Wizards waived him outright is a bit of a red flag. All that said, much Al Davis and Bill Parcells used to say in the NFL, at some point someone thought this kid was a real talent and guys like that are worth taking a chance on. Especially when the price is a minimum contract for a team desperately in need of a player at his position.
As for what Marshall can do on the court, there’s really not much to go on. Theoretically, he’s a very good set up man who has excellent court vision. He offers good size and while he’s not a great athlete, he is smart and knows where to be and when to be there. Whether that can translate into actual production on both ends of the floor remains to be seen, but even if you have doubts about this (which I do), the fact is that Marshall is young enough and still a developing prospect. Taking a chance on him being able to turn into someone who can play 10-15 minutes a night while the other point guards heal is more than worth it.
If you’re looking for a sliver of hope with Marshall being able to see court time soon, two factors work in his favor. First is that his D-League numbers, while not amazing, show he has some talent. His overall field goal percentage (41.3%) is low, but he’s shown an ability to hit the three ball (19-41 from deep in those 7 games) and his passing — his best trait by far — has translated to very good assist numbers. The other good thing about Marshall is that when he was drafted by the Suns, Alvin Gentry was still their head coach. Gentry was one of Mike D’Antoni’s top assistants with the Suns and when he took over as the head man, he essentially kept the offense intact. This should mean that Marshall has had some exposure to at least some of the principles of what the Lakers’ do on that side of the floor and that should help him transition.
Again, though, these are all just hopes. Marshall was a lottery pick from a big college program and that works in his favor. He was also traded away by the team that drafted him a year ago and promptly waived by the team that acquired him. I’m sure the Lakers hope they’re getting the guy with the ACC pedigree and elite passing skills who has a developing offensive game. On the surface it’s doubtful that ends up being the case, but based off the chances they took on Xavier Henry and Wes Johnson that have worked in their favor, maybe they catch lightning in a bottle a third time. Considering their depth issues at that spot, there’s certainly no risk in trying.