To say the past 18 months have been a whirlwind for Kendall Marshall is quite the understatement.
After being selected 13th overall by the Phoenix Suns in the 2012 NBA draft, Marshall has since been traded and cut before he even got to take the floor for his new team. Marshall ended up out of the league after just 702 NBA minutes.
In his first appearance with Delaware on Thursday, Marshall had as much of a statement game as you can have in the D-league. The former Tar Heel finished with 31 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds while drilling five three-pointers.
Maybe Marshall won't be the D-League's Oscar Robertson every night, but he sure looked right at home playing in such a frantically paced game.
To give you an example of just how crazy this game was, the 87ers' opponent—the Rio Grande Valley Vipers—shot 54 three-pointers. The NBA regulation record for most three-pointers attempted by a team is 49. That's how fast and loose the D-League can be.
Maybe Marshall could stick in the league if he landed with an NBA team that loved to play fast and push the tempo constantly. Maybe it could work on a team that tried to find looks early in the shot clock every time down.
If only there was an NBA team out there like that...
Wait a second.
Isn't that team the Los Angeles Lakers?
Under Mike D'Antoni, the Lakers are playing at the league's third-fastest pace this season despite leaning on a few guys like Pau Gasol and Steve Blake, who won't break speed records anytime soon. The Lakers are also third in three-point attempts, makes and percentage. This is a team that wants to run and gun at every opportunity.
Am I saying this year's Lakers are the Seven Seconds or Less Phoenix Suns? No. They're actually faster.
The Lakers' pace factor so far this season (100.3) is higher than that of any of D'Antoni's teams in Phoenix, which seems incredible given the differences in personnel.
This is just an example of the league trending more towards transition play, and Marshall is a point guard who has shown his chops in that setting.
During Marshall's last season at North Carolina in 2011-12, the Tar Heels ranked first in the entire NCAA for field goals made, attempted, rebounds and assists. Like the Lakers, the Tar Heels ran at every possible opportunity.
Marshall's distributing abilities were never really in question, but a lot of teams viewed it as his only real strength.
That's selling Marshall a bit short. His 6'4" frame is ideal for a starting point guard, even if he doesn't have a great wingspan. Marshall has a 37-inch vertical, so it's not like he's a floor-bound player by any means. He's a good enough athlete to make things happen in the open floor.
You'd be hard-pressed to find someone that would endorse last year's Suns team as a great environment to develop in either. Marshall had two head coaches in his rookie year and was stuck with the 29th-ranked offense in efficiency.
If there are talented players on the floor with Marshall, he can set them up. But if there aren't? His strongest attribute doesn't get a chance to shine.
There's no doubt that Marshall does need to improve his jumper and ability to finish at the rim. A true shooting percentage of 45.5 percent isn't going to cut it in the league, no matter how good of a passer you are.
But these are things that can come with time. You can fix a jumper, but you can't teach floor vision and natural point guard instincts. You have them or you don't. Marshall has them.
For the Los Angeles Lakers, taking a chance on Marshall makes all the sense in the world. After cutting Elias Harris last week, the Lakers have a roster spot available to roll the dice with.
Add in all the injuries, and it makes even more sense. Backup point guard Jordan Farmar is out with a torn hamstring that could sideline him for up to a month. Steve Blake has a hyper-extended elbow. Steve Nash's entire body is failing him.
The Lakers could use a young, able body who can step in right away and not have a "system shock" under D'Antoni.
Marshall can be that player. He could also be a piece for the future in Los Angeles, as the Lakers will almost certainly have to fill out an entire roster next year with a handful of minimum-salary players. Why not start the scouting early?
If there's anywhere Marshall can get his NBA career back on track, it's Los Angeles. Nash can serve as a mentor and D'Antoni will put him in the best position to succeed, just like he's done with plenty of point guards over the years.
The Lakers have had success this year with Xavier Henry, a former lottery pick who was written off by everyone. Maybe Kendall Marshall can be the next reclamation project to pay dividends.
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