Editor's Note: Please welcome our newest contributor, Caleb Cottrell. He should fit right into the mold of writers here at Silver Screen and Roll and we're very excited he is joining our team. Also feel free give him a follow on Twitter, where he spends his time chit-chatting about the Lakers and basketball in general. Enjoy his debut article!
It has been a rocky season for the Los Angeles Lakers and their fans. There hasn't been much to be excited about with the injuries to Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Xavier Henry, Steve Blake, and Jordan Farmar, and the team being thirteenth in the West at 14-23. No one is used to the Lakers being a losing team. Not only is the team losing, but they aren't losing enough to be in position for a top draft pick. The fans need something to bring some joy back into Lakers basketball; the front office and Mike D'Antoni may have worked their magic with Kendall Marshall.
The second year point guard out of North Carolina is already playing for his third team. He was drafted thirteenth by the Phoenix Suns, but was shipped out in the Marcin Gortat trade after playing only one season. The Washington Wizards decided they had no use for him, so they waived him before he could even get on the court. The Lakers signed Marshall after he played seven games in the D-League. He has been putting up fantastic numbers since joining the team. In his four starts, Marshall is averaging 13.6 points, 11.2 assists, 4.8 rebounds, and he is shooting 46.4 percent from the field (43.5 percent from beyond the arc).
One of the biggest knocks on Kendall Marshall's game has been his shooting, but it hasn't been a major concern, thus far. In his time with the Lakers, Marshall has shot 46.9 percent from three point land on 3.6 attempts a game, which is up from 31.5 percent last season. Of course, this is all small sample size, but it is still nice to see. Teams are going to give Marshall space for two reasons: First, they know he is a pass-first point guard, so they are going to try and take away the passing lanes. When Kendall's defender closes off a passing lane, it frees up Marshall for an open shot. Second, Marshall runs pick-and-roll 49 percent of the time, according to Synergy Sports Technology . Most of the time, his defender is going to go under the screen, which leaves Marshall open to knock down shots,
In this video example, Marshall runs a little pick-and-roll with Pau Gasol. Thanks to the pick, Trey Burke gets behind the play. Because of this, Enes Kanter has to make a choice between guarding Gasol on the roll, or closing out on Marshall's shot. Kanter ultimately chooses defending Gasol, which leaves Marshall open for the free throw line jumper.
Not only has Kendall Marshall's shooting been big for the Lakers, but he has helped the offense overall. When he is on the court, the Lakers average 102.6 points per 100 possessions; with him off the court, they are averaging 92.7 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com/Stats.
One of the reasons for the big differences on offense is the Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) shoots up. It goes from 48.9 percent, to 59.2 percent when he comes onto the court. The big increase in eFG% is thanks to his ability to be able to set up his teammates. The sophomore point guard has an assist rate of 43.3 percent. For comparison, Nash's career average is 41.4 percent. Not too shabby.
Due to his start and his enchanting story, Kendall Marshall is being compared to another one of Mike D'Antoni's products -- Jeremy Lin. D'Antoni went from Linsanity to Marsh Madness. Before Lin signed with the New York Knicks and D'Antoni, he was in the D-League and sleeping on his friend's couch. Lin is now one of the most popular and marketable players in the league. In his 35 games under Coach D'Antoni, Lin averaged 14.6 points, 6.2 assists, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.6 steals, while shooting 44.6 percent from the field in just 27 minutes a game. Lin isn't the only point guard MDA has had success with; he has also done well with Raymond Felton, Chris Duhon, and Toney Douglas.
With all the rumors going around about the Lakers making a trade, Marshall's recent success could make a trade even more likely. If his current pace keeps up, Steve Blake wouldn't be needed, and he could make a decent trade chip. Some team would most likely give up a minor asset -- like a second round pick -- on Blake so they can use him as a backup point guard. If the Lakers don't trade him, they will have a very crowded back-court. That might not be a bad thing, however, considering the injuries keep piling up.
In what has become a very rough season for the Lakers, fans need to look for a silver lining. One just happened to be that the Lakers have been finding some nice and young role players, such as Xavier Henry, Robert Sacre, Jordan Hill, Wesley Johnson, and the man himself, Kendall Marshall. Mike D'Antoni has been working his superpowers this season, and it has been no different with Kendall Marshall. It may fizzle out, or it may be Linsanity 2.0.
Whatever it is, enjoy the Kendall Marshall experience while it lasts.