Kendall Marshall: Milwaukee’s best passing guard and Milwaukee’s worst scoring guard

Marshall made improvements with the Lakers last season, but he has a ways to go offensively. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Marshall made improvements with the Lakers last season, but he has a ways to go offensively. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I know I’ve spent far too many hours justifying Brandon Jenningsability to play point guard in my life. Virtually for as long as he was with the Milwaukee Bucks, I remember having conversations about his assist numbers and offensive productivity. It wasn’t that he was a bad or unwilling passer, I’d say, it’s that his teammates were so bad offensively that they were making it impossible for him to get assists.

How was he suppose to rack up double digit assist games pitching the ball to a half asleep John Salmons, a practically retired Corey Maggette or Stephen Jackson who may have been engaging in an on-court protest his entire stint in Milwaukee. And if he had some better teammates, that’d open things up for him to improve his shooting percentages all over the court.

It was one sad justification after the next. But now I know. I know a guy can be a productive passer, even on a team filled with teammates that aren’t very good. I know a guy an be that passer, even if he is practically a non-factor offensively outside of that passing. I know this because I spent the weekend studying Kendall Marshall.

Marshall was so much better at passing than any guard that played on the Bucks roster last season. I knew that to be true even before I looked at the third year guard’s numbers, but still, when I looked at his passing statistics pulled from the NBA’s stat-tracking cameras, I was taken aback. Look at how many more points Marshall was creating last season than any of Milwaukee’s guards:

Player
Points created by assist per game
Points Created by AST Per 48 Min
Kendall Marshall (LAL) 20 33
Brandon Knight (MIL) 11.6 16.6
Ramon Sessions (MIL) 11 16.2
Luke Ridnour (MIL) 7.9 17.9
Nate Wolters (MIL) 7.6 16.3

Per 48 minutes, he nearly doubled all of Milwaukee’s guards in points created by assist per 48 minutes on a Lakers team that, while they were better than the Bucks, definitely wasn’t very good offensively. He beautifully worked pick and pops with Paul Gasol and, on his occasional trips to the rim, showed a great ability to find teammates for easy looks in the paint. That’s the thing about Marshall, it’s not that he’s passing at some unfathomable volume, it’s that his passes typically do a better job than the average player’s passes at getting his teammates in a position to score. In about four minutes less per game than Brandon Knight, Marshall threw 3.5 more passes per game (Marshall: 62.9 – Knight: 59.4), which isn’t a ton more passing. He just makes them count a bit more.

But let’s talk about those occasional trips to the rim. When I write occasional, know that I’m not using that word haphazardly. According to the stat-tracking cameras, Marshall’s time of possession per game was about five minutes exactly, compared to Wolters 3.1 minutes per game. In those five minutes, Marshall averaged just 4.6 drives per game, whereas Wolters averaged 4.1 drives. Knight blew both of them out of the water, with 6.8 drives per game in his 6.1 minutes of possession each night. Many a word has been written on this site about Knight and his style of point guarding, but Wolters isn’t especially seen as a shoot first point guard by any stretch of the imagination. And even he is driving with more frequency per minute than Marshall.

And when Marshall drives, the results aren’t great. Not only did he average just 2.1 points per game on drives, but his team averaged just 4.9 points per game on his drives. So it’s not like Marshall was often getting through defenders and dropping it off for his teammates, though he did show some ability to do that. He just generally struggled to get through defenders.

Player
Player PPG on Drives
Team PPG on Drives
PTS Per 48 Min on Drives
Ramon Sessions (MIL) 6.1 10.2 8.9
Brandon Knight (MIL) 5 7.9 7.1
Nate Wolters (MIL) 2.5 4.6 5.3
Kendall Marshall (LAL) 2.1 4.9 3.5

This lack of offensive productivity wasn’t just limited to Marshall’s drives either. According to mySynergySports, he ranked 429 in the NBA in points per possession last season. He was a much improved 3-point shooter, but he still wasn’t hitting with enough volume (1.5 3PM per game last season) to make up for his lack of attack and finish skills everywhere inside the 3-point line.

Of course, what was broken for Marshall last season (everything aside from his passing) doesn’t have to be broken forever. While he’s a bit pokey, his improvement as a 3-point shooter last season (31% 3FG as a rookie, 40% 3FG in year two) gives hope that he’ll keep finding ways to get better. What he lacks in speed he makes up for in size, at a 6-foot-4 point guard. Perhaps he’ll improve enough around the basket on his limited forays to the rim and keep his 3-point percentage high enough to turn himself into an average scorer. Marshall as an average scorer makes Marshall a relevant player. That’s how good his passing is.

So surely he has his orders from his new team. Put the ball in the basket more. Learn to do it with more consistency and find your spots on the court and a path to get to them more often. The point guard position remains an open one in Milwaukee. If Marshall can get better, there’s no reason he can’t stake a claim to a percentage of those minutes.

Categories: Stats and Stuff

I watch the Milwaukee Bucks often and write about what I see…

12 Comments

  1. First, from summer league Marshall looks much improved in the scoring area.

    Second, and most importantly, he is being brought in for his first trait not his second. With Parker and Giannis, Henson and Illyasova, Mayo and Middleton, and even Knight this team has guys who will be best served by someone who can get them into a flow offensively and allow them to play to their scoring strengths and running a team is none of theirs.

    Starting Lineup:
    Marshall
    Mayo
    Parker
    Illyasovo
    Sanders

    Bench:
    Knight
    Middleton
    Giannis
    Henson

    • He shot 27.8% in SL so I’m not sure how he looks much improved as a scoring guard. I think a lot of Bucks fans are expecting way too much out of this guy, think Wolters should be ahead of him on the depth chart for now. I’ll be extremely disappointed if you have the starting line-up right, on more than one count

      • Well they either wanna show Larry and Ers off or Kidd wants Ers as a stretch four, I am certain Kidd will start Giannis he is one of our better defenders already. I think you’re going to see 7-8 maybe 9 guys land within 15-30 minutes per game. I am willing to bet it’s more about development this year unless something like what happened to the Suns happens for the Bucks. If Ers plays great(he doesn’t play good until second half even the year he shot .455% from 3) Ersan is worth keeping if Kidd can get him shooting great the whole year around. He does have the ability to hit 45% even 50% from 3.

  2. Marshall’s game to me seems similar to Kidd’s game in the back half of his career, would seem a perfect pupil for our new coach

  3. I go back to the idea that it’s easier for a natural point guard to improve his shooting than to teach a shooter the skills to be a point guard — which to a greater degree requirea abilities that mostly just can’t be taught, such as court vision, and pace, and timing, and craftiness, as well as leadership.

    I agree that Kendall Marshall is an imperfect choice for our starting point guard, but I’m excited about him because he does really seem to be a natural point guard, to have the knack for facilitating for his teammates. That’s not to say that Kendall is necessarily going to make it as a top NBA point guard, but — like a lot of his teammates on the Bucks — he’s still really young and promising, and only time will tell.

    I’m concerned about Kendall’s abilities to shoot from outside, to finish at the rim, to break down defenses off the dribble, to perform in crunch time when defenses clamp down, to be consistent, and to be a leader Then again, I have concerns about all of our young guys… to go along with lots of hopes.

    One perspective is that there hasn’t seemed to be a lot of options at the point for the Bucks. Jeff Teague would have been nice, maybe great, and I applaud the front office for trying. As of now, I’m not sure who’s out there as a pass-first point who is readily available at a reasonable price.

    So the Bucks getting a young and promising point at almost no cost; a former lottery pick (just ahead of John Henson) who set an ACC record for assists in a season at North Carolina (as a teammate of Henson); a guy who seems to have a pass-first attitude and a knack for ball distribution; and someone who has shown improvement thus far in a short amount of time — in an imperfect basketball world, this does have me excited.

    I’m hoping that Kendall starts at point, with Brandon at shooting guard. We can still give Nate a good chance to succeed with the Bucks with good minutes off the bench at both guard positions. We can even experiment with Giannis at point. Perhaps we can pick up a veteran as a back-up at the point a la Andre Miller. As iffy as all of this is, I still think we may be much better at point this season than we have for many a year.

    Otherwise, it’ll be time to start looking to next year’s draft, or around the NBA and D-League, for a new candidate at this key position.

    • I’m not one to believe that K.Marshall has to raise his offensive game to new heights in order to verify his value to the team. In my opinion it’s all about his defense. If he can improve his on-ball defense to the point of being an above average defender than his well above average gift of facilitating the ball should be more than enough to cause fits and problems for the other team to deal with regardless to whether or not they’ll need to honor his shooting ability or the threat of him taking the ball to the basket.

      My point is, is that K.Marshall must demonstrate that he’s not a huge defensive liability for the team to have him out on the floor. My problem with playing B.Knight at the two spot is of the same concern; if B.Knight is going to be over-matched on the defensive side while playing as the defender of the other team’s two guard (taller and stronger players will probably poise problems) then he’s better off on the floor as one of our primary ball handlers at the point guard position where his better athleticism and on-ball defense (in relation to K.Marshall) are much better for the team overall. He could of course also be looked at as a major scoring threat off of the bench (6th man role) who can temporarily fill-in at either guard position despite the known defensive issues at the two guard spot if he finds himself matched up against bigger (taller) and stronger two guards because his main role is to simply score the ball, but he probably will need to continue improving his offensive game further if the Bucks are to overlook any major match-up issues.

  4. Kendall is a decent player – last year with the Lakers he dropped 8 points, dished 9 dimes, and grabbed 3 rebounds and 1 steal per game in about 29 minutes per game. That’s pretty strong performance for a kid in his second year in the NBA.

    • In a run and gun offense, other then the assists those numbers are below average. He is terrible defensively and his FT shooting is awful. Too many Bucks fans spend so much time “thinking” someone must be good that when they end up riding the bench they get upset. Marshall is a backup, nothing more nothing less. Heck, for all the complaints about Wolter’s athleticism he is FAR more athletic than Marshall. By mid-season Marshall will be trade talk fodder or he’ll be in the D League, again.

  5. @jack…KM will never see the DLeague again and by seasons end he will break the bucks single game assist record

  6. Who holds the Bucks single game assist record ? _________ I wanna say it is Ramon Sessions…. and How many assists is the current record ? ____