Can Kendall Marshall Find Permanent NBA Home with Milwaukee Bucks?

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistJuly 19, 2014

SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 2: Kendall Marshall #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers in a game against the Sacramento Kings on April 2, 2014 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles Lakers' summer makeover has included the return of several familiar faces, but Kendall Marshall won't be one of them.

The organization waived the 22-year-old on Friday with the hope of potentially bringing him back in the event he cleared waivers.

That's not going to happen.

Milwaukee's interest is well-founded. Marshall averaged eight points and an impressive 8.8 assists last season, solidifying his reputation as a pass-first floor general. Those 8.8 assists ranked him second league-wide. His 14.6 assists per 48 minutes put him one-tenth of an assist behind league leader Chris Paul.

The man knows how to facilitate.

He also upped his success rate from beyond the three-point arc from .315 in 2012-13 to .399 in 2013-14.

Still not an especially productive or efficient scorer, Marshall has work to do. But again, he's young—a perfect reserve for a club that can afford a little patience. The rebuilding Bucks can afford plenty.  

It's worth noting Marshall's numbers were probably slightly inflated by head coach Mike D'Antoni's run-and-gun system. The Lakers ranked second in pace last season, so there's that little caveat to Marshall's otherwise intriguing production.

Still, he showed flashes. noted, "In Marshall’s best stretch of the season in January, he tossed at least 10 assists and scored at least 10 points in five consecutive games."

The Lakers weren't eager to part ways with Marshall, but in the end he's a casualty of the team's broader efforts to put a winner on the floor.'s Zach Harper explains:

The Lakers traded for Jeremy Lin and his $8.3 million slated for the salary cap this season. They've also re-signed Nick Young on a four-year deal, re-signed Jordan Hill for big money, and recently claimed Carlos Boozer off amnesty waivers, which has used up their available cap space.

That first move (acquiring Lin) made it especially difficult to justify retaining Marshall. The Lakers should have much-improved depth at point guard with Lin and a healthy Steve Nash.

Not every team can boast that kind of platoon, though. Certainly not Milwaukee.

To fully understand what Marshall will mean to the Bucks, you first have to grasp a few things about the club's current point guard situation.

SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 23: Brandon Knight #11 of the Milwaukee Bucks gets introduced into the starting lineup against the Sacramento Kings on March 23, 2014 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agre
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For all his talent, starter Brandon Knight is focused on scoring the ball. And that's fine. He's good at it. The 22-year-old averaged a career-high 17.9 points per contest last season, attempting an average of 15.2 field goals in the process. 

The flip side of that production is that Knight averaged just 4.9 assists per game. While that too was a career high, it's less than ideal from a guy who's supposed to initiate offense. 

Indeed, Knight's seven assists per 48 minutes ranked him 35th among point guards league-wide. His 19.8 assist ratio ranked 61st among point guards.

The consequences of lacking a genuine floor general were felt team-wide. Milwaukee's 16.7 assist ratio was tied for 15th-best around the league, right in the middle of the pack. It's 21.5 assists per game were 17th best.

Taken a step further, the subpar ball movement almost certainly had implications for the Bucks' overall offensive potency. Per 100 possessions, Milwaukee scored just 100.2 points per game—good for 26th in the NBA.

Shooting guard O.J. Mayo's struggles were a microcosm of the team's offensive ineptitude. In 2012-13, he averaged 15.3 points and converted on 44.9 percent of his field-goal attempts for the Dallas Mavericks.

Those numbers took a dive last season in Milwaukee. Mayo averaged just 11.7 points, while his shooting efficiency sank to 40.7 percent.

There's no single factor that explains the decline. Part of it undoubtedly had to do with Mayo coming off the bench for much of the season—a move that's historically brought the worst out of the 26-year-old. But Milwaukee's stalled ball movement surely played a role, too. Mayo is fundamentally a spot-up shooter, and passing tends to be a pretty important prerequisite to catching-and-shooting.

There's been talk of letting the super-long Giannis Antetokounmpo (the "Greek Freak") handle some of the point guard duties, but that's more of an experimental thing at the moment. 

SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 23: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks in a game against the Sacramento Kings on March 23, 2014 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading
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Per's Scott Howard-Cooper, head coach Jason Kidd explained, "We’ve seen it in practice, and so when you see a player’s comfort level with the ball no matter what size, we want to see it in game action and we slowly have started letting him have the ball and running the offense."

Kidd added, "With the group we have right now, with B-Knight and Giannis, we have additional playmakers and when we have that on the floor, it makes the game easy. We’ll see how the roster shakes out, but we’re not afraid to play him at the point, as you see."

Pro Basketball Talk's Dan Feldman noted, "Depending on the offensive scheme, there might be only minor differences between a point forward and a point guard, but putting the ball in Antetokounmpo’s hands that much says something about Kidd’s confidence in him."

However you want to classify Antetokounmpo positionally, he probably won't replace the need for someone like Marshall in the backcourt. 

The idea here is to add playmakers. That also explains why the Bucks are reportedly close to inking Jerryd Bayless, per ESPN's Marc Stein.

You can never have too many passers and creators.

It's too soon to know how long Marshall will last with the Bucks, but it's a promising situation. He'll have the opportunity to continue growing, and—in the meantime—he'll address one of Milwaukee's most vital needs.

The Bucks may not win many games this season, but they're positioning themselves for long-term success. Marshall could be a big part of that.