The knock on Kendall Marshall heading into his NBA career, and into the 2013-14 season with the Lakers after his D-League call up, was that he couldn’t shoot at an NBA level.
Known for his passing at the University of North Carolina, Marshall struggled with his percentages in limited playing time as a rookie for the Suns. In 14.6 minutes a night in 48 games (three starts), he shot 37.1 percent from the field (56 of 151) and 31.5 percent from three (23 of 73).
But in his 23 games (15 starts) for the Lakers, Marshall is leading the entire NBA in three-point shooting. Not Kyle Korver (third), Kevin Durant (13th) or Klay Thompson (18th). Kendall Marshall.
Marshall has drained 44 of the 89 three pointers he’s attempted for that league-best average of 49.4 percent, and converted on 46.5 percent of his total field goals (92 of 198), tied with Chris Paul for second amongst point guards behind only Tony Parker (50 percent).
Coach Mike D’Antoni was asked if he expected anywhere near this level of shooting success from a guard picked up only after Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar went down with injuries.
“No,” D’Antoni said, shaking his head. “But Kendall is shooting the ball extremely well.”
What in particular has worked about Marshall’s shot?
“What works is it’s going in,” D’Antoni answered. “You’d have to ask him. He has to have his feet set, but that’s OK.”
So I asked Marshall.
“I think it’s the confidence to take the shot,” he said. “I used to be known as a shooter my whole life, but then I became a power point guard sophomore year in high school always trying to get to the rim.”
Marshall had grown a few inches and put on some muscle, and became more of a drive-and-dish player. But he never felt like his shot left him, and didn’t much change his form, aside from perhaps “getting a little more air under the ball.”
“I know I have a slow release and not a lot of motion,” he said. “Honestly, every coach I’ve had has told me I have a good form.”
So confidence it must be. And what helps with confidence more than anything else? Playing time.
Due to the rash of injuries for Los Angeles, Marshall averaged 38.5 minutes per game in January, and he benefited from the knowledge that he’d be on the court whether or not he made shots. Since Nash and Blake – and Farmar for a game – came back in February, Marshall’s kept that confidence in a reserve role, shooting even better in less time.
In 25.8 minutes off the bench in four February games, Marshall hit 14 of his 23 shots, including 9 of 12 three-pointers.
D’Antoni has asked for some improvement from Marshall on the defensive end, but couldn’t be much happier with the production on offense.
Marshall, after all, would rank second in the NBA in assists per game with his 9.3 per night if he’d played enough games to qualify … and his shooting has been notable enough that it took nearly 500 words to get to his passing.