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Mike D’Antoni is, without question, one of the most underappreciated coaches in professional sports.
Does he deserve some criticism for having a long track record of poor defensive teams? Sure, no coach is perfect.
With that said, D’Antoni just continues to extract talent out of a roster ravaged by injuries and compiled of NBA sendoffs.
He has Jodie Meeks, Nick Young, Xavier Henry, Steve Blake, Jordan Hill, Jordan Farmar, Wesley Johnson and Kendall Marshall playing arguably (in some cases unarguably) the best basketball of their respective careers.
That success can be attributed to opportunities players haven’t been afforded yet in the NBA, but every one of those names has been productive thus far.
Perhaps the most impressive case is Marshall.
The University of North Carolina product was drafted 13th overall by the Phoenix Suns in 2012. He had some nice moments as a Sun (showing off some nifty passing skills), but was sent to the Washington Wizards in the Marcin Gortat trade last summer.
Oddly, the Wizards decided to cut Marshall rather than keep him as a safety net behind point guard John Wall—a job held down by the lackluster duo of Eric Maynor and Garrett Temple, who are averaging 4.4 points and 3.1 assists combined.
The Lakers desperately needed a point guard, so they picked up Marshall. D’Antoni’s offensive system has allowed the youngster to thrive.
The 22-year-old has already posted four double-doubles, including a 20-point, 15-assist, six-rebound effort in a win over the Utah Jazz. He’s averaging 12.6 points and 12.1 assists in January while shooting 40 percent from behind the arc.
The Lakers have struggled to keep their heads above water this season. Those shortcomings can’t be pinned on D’Antoni, though, because, quite frankly, what does he have to work with?
More often than not, D’Antoni makes mediocre players good, good players great and great players elite. Without him, Boris Diaw probably wouldn’t be in the NBA right now. We might say the same of Marshall a few years down the road.