The Los Angeles Lakers must decide which point guard will steer the team for the next few years.
The obvious answer was supposed to be: Steve Nash. But his injury woes since relocating to Los Angeles make it practically impossible for the franchise to rely on Nash going forward. He has only appeared in 60 games since joining Lakerland.
Nash is under contract until the end of next season, but projecting his availability might be on the same level as picking winning lottery numbers.
That means the point guard of the future is either Jordan Farmar or Kendall Marshall unless. Granted, L.A. could sign someone in free agency or draft a point guard, but these scenarios require the Lakers to look outside the organization for help, which hardly guarantees success.
The team has to evaluate players that they are relatively unfamiliar with, whereas they probably already have a good understanding of what Farmar and Marshall bring to the table. Thus, the answer is probably one of them.
Fitting the Coaching Philosophy?
The player who best fits Mike D'Antoni's offense will more than likely have a great shot at securing the job as the Lakers' starting point guard.
D'Antoni is under contract until the end of 2014-15, with a club option for the following year, per Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Although there is no certainty L.A. will keep its head coach throughout the duration of his deal, we will assume in this space that such is the case.
D'Antoni favors playing at a fast pace and spreading the court with shooters. He puts players in numerous pick-and-rolls and trusts them to make the proper reads in the face of defensive rotations. Naturally, a pass-first guard works perfectly in this setting because he can hit open players for easy shots.
This is right up Marshall's alley. He anticipates defensive movements fairly quickly and adjusts by hitting his teammates with pinpoint passes.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak corroborated these findings in an interview with Mike Trudell over at Lakers.com in early January (a few weeks after Marshall was signed):
MT: Well, as a fellow North Carolina guy we know that you were familiar with his game.
Kupchak … Yes. We had watched him on a limited basis in Phoenix and in the D-League, and I had several conversations with (UNC coach) Roy Williams a week or two before we signed him. Roy thought he was a great teammate, a great table setter, and had nothing negative to say. He spoke about Kendall’s basketball pluses and minuses, but just raved about him as a player and person. He said our coaches would love him.
Also, Marshall has shot the ball well from long range as evidenced by his 45.5 percent conversion rate from downtown. That makes him a difficult cover because teams have to honor his jump shot and passing ability in the pick-and-roll.
What’s more, Marshall puts pressure on defenses with his great decisiveness. He quickly concludes whether to pass or shoot, instead of simply endlessly dribbling the ball. Marshall’s willingness to keep things moving promotes passing and cutting with his comrades.
It’s worth noting that Marshall is not a great scorer. He does a decent job of creating shots but has problems converting them. Indeed, Marshall is only converting 52.6 percent of his shots around the basket, per NBA.com.
Part of that stems from the fact he is not incredibly athletic or explosive. Players can stay within proximity of Marshall and help defenders get an opportunity to recover and contest his shot.
This is where Farmar enters the discussion. Farmar has a great burst and seems to always have a pep in his step. He beats defenders off the dribble and creates problems for defenses by getting in the lane.
Those are terrific attributes, but ultimately they do very little for the Lakers. Farmar is a subpar shooter from every spot on the court save for the corners, according to NBA.com.
Thus, his athletic gifts fail to separate him from Marshall. What’s more, Farmar is a shoot-first guard who struggles to convert from the field (40.9 percent field goal). In other words, the thing he does best barely moves the needle for the Lake Show.
The Lakers’ injury woes since hiring D’Antoni more than likely make durability a big concern for the Purple and Gold.
Los Angeles signed Farmar during the offseason with the hope he would give the Lakers depth at point guard. While Nash was hurting early in the season, he felt as though Farmar would give the team a huge boost.
Nash shared as much with Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding: "Hopefully I can play at a better rate at some point in the near future. But also you’re going to see Jordan really come alive and play well more consistently and give us a real player who can help the team."
However, the guard corps basically fell apart.
Steve Blake, traded to the Golden State Warriors on February 19, appeared in a mere 27 games for the Lakers due to an assortment of health issues.
Farmar has appeared in 28 contests for Los Angeles. With backcourt players falling left and right (Kobe Bryant has appeared in six games), Kupchak signed Marshall from the NBA D-League to a multiyear contract. Marshall still needed an opening, and when he got one, he struck.
Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding explains: "When Farmar, the third-string point guard the Lakers eagerly anticipated blossoming with Steve Nash and Steve Blake already injured, went down with fill-in point guard Xavier Henry also hurt, the team clearly became Marshall’s to run."
Since joining the Lakers, Marshall has surpassed all of his counterparts in terms of games played for the team.
To be fair, this hardly suggests that Farmar is injury prone and that Marshall is an invulnerable gladiator. Nonetheless, the short-term evidence indicates that Marshall is a safer bet to play in the majority of the franchise’s games in the next few seasons.
Contracts Play a Part
The contract situations of Farmar and Marshall will probably have an impact on the player the Lakers choose to carry the torch from the point guard spot.
Farmar is a free agent at the end of the season, but L.A. might be able to negotiate a three-year deal worth $1 million annually, which is the standard minimum for a player with at least six years worth of experience in the league.
On the flip side, Marshall is already signed to a non-guaranteed deal that expires in 2016 should the Lakers decide to tender a qualifying offer before the start of the 2015-16 campaign, per Sham Sports.
In the event Kupchak keeps Marshall for the duration of his deal, he will cost the Lakers roughly $2.5 million total until the end 2015-16. Marshall comes at a cheaper rate than Farmar because he does not have enough years of experience accumulated.
In essence, the Lakers get a younger and more productive player in Marshall for a lower dollar amount when compared to Farmar.
Advantage Marshall once more.
The choice is Marshall.
He is a better fit in D’Antoni’s system because of his passing gifts, and his shooting certainly helps space the floor for the Lakers.
Marshall has been far more durable than Farmar this season, which could be an indication that Marshall’s younger body is better suited to handle the rigors of the 82-game schedule.
Marshall will be 23 years old when the 2014-15 season tips off, and he will be playing for peanuts from the Lakers' vantage point. Marshall is already more productive than Farmar, and he could still develop into a better player in the next few seasons.
Farmar could still improve in the coming years, but logic suggests he is a finished product (will be 28 years old by the start of next season) who fluctuates in terms of his play from one season to the next when we look at his year-by-year statistics.
Marshall is by no means a lock. He could end up being a one-year wonder, but all the information makes it clear that he towers over Farmar. Marshall is the future in L.A.
Statistical info accurate as of February 28, 2014.