Should the Timberwolves Target Kendall Marshall?


Feb 7, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Kendall Marshall (12) is defended by Philadelphia 76ers guard Michael Carter-Williams (1) during the fourth quarter at the Wells Fargo Center. The Lakers defeated the Sixers 112-98. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

It was announced on Friday, July 18 that the Lakers had cut Kendall Marshall from their roster to re-sign Nick Young. The Lakers have the intention to re-sign Marshall, but with Jeremy Lin and Steve Nash eating up minutes at the one, the Lakers may not be the best place for Marshall to go.

The UNC product was called up from the D-League mid-year due to the fact the Lakers were ravaged by injuries and were forced into starting swingman Xavier Henry at the point for a few games. After Marshall was called up, he delivered and a had a few monster games along the way.

Jan 24, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Los Angeles Lakers point guard Kendall Marshall (12) against the Orlando Magic during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Marshall had nine games where he totaled 14 or more assists and proved even on a depleted Lakers squad he could still use his extraordinary court vision to hit the open man for an easy shot.

Marshall is a pass-first point guard and cannot be counted on for over 10 points a night, similar to Ricky Rubio. Marshall attended the University of North Carolina and was second in the nation in assists per game and ended up being picked 13th overall in the 2012 draft by the Phoenix Suns.

Marshall soon fell out of the Suns’ rotation and was eventually traded to the Wizards in the deal that brought Marcin Gortat to Washington. He was immediately cut by the Wizards and spent the first half of the season in the D-League before being called up.

But how does Marshall help the Wolves?

Currently on the Wolves’ roster the closest player to resemble a backup point guard is JJ Barea. Barea is an offensive spark plug off the bench and has the ability to drop 15 points in a quarter, but he really isn’t a point guard. Barea’s job on the court is to put the ball in the basket and do it in a hurry, not look for his open teammate.

Barea also had a down year in the previous season and shot 38% from the field which frankly is awful. I am not saying that Barea doesn’t have a place on the roster, because he does, but Barea is not the player that should handle the distributing role.

Alexey Shved has also dabbled in the point guard slot as well, but similar to Barea, Shved is an inefficient scorer who does not always look to pass the ball.

This is where Marshall steps in. Instead of taking a third string role in Los Angeles, Marshall can immediately step into the role as backup point guard and lead Minnesota’s bench which was so bad last season.

When looking at Marshall’s game, he is actually a pretty similar player to Ricky Rubio. Looking at the two side by side draws some interesting comparisons.

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Both players are about the same size, standing at 6’4 and both young point guards are inefficient scorers inside the three point line. Where a major difference is the 3PT% where Marshall is sitting at just under 40% and Rubio is at 33%.

Rubio is also a significantly better free throw shooter than Marshall, although Marshall attempted only 32 free throw attempts in the last season.

Rubio is also a slightly better rebounder and is overall a much better defender both at creating steals and on-ball defense. Marshall is a poor defender generating only 0.3 DWS (defensive win shares) compared to Rubio’s 3.6.

While the shooting percentages speak differently, Rubio was a more efficient player than Marshall possessing a 15.4 PER (player efficiency rating) compared to Marshall’s 12.6. Note the league average for PER is 15.

So yes, Rubio is a better player than Marshall, there is no debating that. However the two contrast each other well while still having a similar pass-first playing style.

Rubio likes to speed up the pace and run in transition while also hounding the opposing point guard looking for steals. Marshall likes to slow the game down and truly analyze the offense and find the best pass without taking too many risks using the majority of the shot clock if he has to.

Overall, Marshall could be an intriguing option for the Wolves off the bench. Of course, he will be a pretty hot commodity when he clears waivers as pass-first point guards are hard to come by these days. It is unlikely he lands with the Wolves, but if he does it would be a great pickup by Minnesota.