To everyone who desperately wanted the Bucks to add a "true" point guard to the Milwaukee Bucks' backcourt: this one's for you.
The Bucks claimed former Suns and Lakers point guard Kendall Marshall off waivers on Saturday, providing additional depth (for now) to a backcourt that will also reportedly be adding Jerryd Bayless to the existing trio of Brandon Knight, Nate Wolters and O.J. Mayo. The Lakers had elected to waive Marshall's fully non-guaranteed $915,243 deal on Friday in order to clear space for additional signings, but had reportedly hoped to re-sign the former North Carolina standout once they were done with other signings.
Milwaukee will mark the fourth landing spot for Marshall in just over two years, a circuitous journey for a guy who averaged nearly 10 assists per game as a college sophomore and was a lottery pick just two years ago. Phoenix's 13th overall pick in 2012, Marshall was shipped to Washington as part of the Marcin Gortat deal after just one forgettable season in the desert. The Wizards then opted to waive him immediately, and it wasn't until he latched on with Mike D'Antoni's Lakers midway through last season that he finally started to find his NBA bearings.
With Steve Nash and virtually every other Laker guard felled by injuries, Marshall started 45 games in L.A. and did two things exceptionally well: He set up teammates (an eye-popping 8.8 assists in 29 mpg) and hit open threes (39.9%). Just don't expect him to do anything else, as Marshall was otherwise reluctant to shoot (just 41.1% on 3.3 two-point shots per game), never got to the line (a microscopic 36 free trow attempts in 1564 minutes), and generally reaffirmed his status as one of the league's weirdest statistical profiles.
It's an interesting--and borderline intriguing--move for the Bucks, who had started the week looking for ballhandlers to complement Brandon Knight and Nate Wolters. That led them to reportedly agreeing to a two-year deal with Bayless earlier this week as well as the more opportunistic move to add the minimum salary of Marshall this weekend. It's interesting to ponder whether they would have been as interested in adding Bayless if they knew Marshall would become available, though it's not as though the Bucks are suddenly overloaded in the backcourt. While Knight and Bayless are both combo guards, Marshall and Wolters are less capable of scoring but more skilled as facilitators, and all of them are big enough (6'3" to 6'4") to theoretically share guard duties as needed.
What this means for the rest of the Bucks' summer is less clear, though you can expect at least one more move beyond this. So what might that be? Well, adding Marshall's salary slices a bit off the Bucks' immediate cap room, which would drop to $10.3 million for 14 roster spots. That excludes a potential Bayless signing as well as unsigned second rounders Damien Inglis and Johnny O'Bryant, but includes Chris Wright's own $915,243 non-guaranteed deal, which is almost certain to be waived at some point before opening night. So realistically the Bucks have $11.2 million of available cap room remaining after adding Marshall, though they would also need to clear an additional roster spot by November to accommodate the additions of Marshall, Bayless, Inglis and O'Bryant. Hence the expectation that at least one more move is on the way. Ersan Ilyasova, John Henson, or Larry Sanders could be moved, Carlos Delfino could be stretched (opening a spot and clearing a couple million off the Bucks' cap)...lots of possibilities.
And what of the Eric Bledsoe (pipe) dream? Well, it wasn't looking likely that the Bucks were going to clear enough space for a max offer to Bledsoe either way, and if the Suns ever did get to the point of listening to sign-and-trade offers, the Bucks having marginally less cap space likely wouldn't be a deal-breaker. Still, the Marshall move looks to be an opportunistic one as much as anything, giving the Bucks a cheap youngster with both rotation potential and the contractual flexibility to be moved or waived if needed.
So if the Bucks really were intent on making a play for Bledsoe (or any other big ticket addition), the Marshall move wouldn't be what stops them. The fact that Bayless has yet to be officially signed is also encouraging on the "maybe the Bucks will make a big move!" front, as adding his roughly $3 million cap number will take a more sizable chunk out of the Bucks' flexibility. I'm not sure how long the Bucks may put off making that move official, though it doesn't hurt to wait and see what types of opportunities might avail themselves. Odds are that won't involve Bledsoe--the Suns still control his fate and don't have a strong reason to move him regardless of his contract demands--but it's never bad to keep your options open.
More about Marshall:
- Followers of John Henson on Twitter know that the former Tar Heel teammates are good friends--and perhaps have seen that Marshall (@KButter5) is one of the wittiest NBA players on Twitter. Here's his immediate reaction to the Bucks' claiming him:
- Marshall rated at the smack dab middle of all point guards in ESPN's Real Plus Minus terms, checking in at +0.50 offensively and -2.16 defensively. The latter reflects broader concerns about Marshall's defense--in particular his lateral quickness--which was criticized last year as well. In terms of raw plus-minus, the Lakers overall were only marginally worse defensively with him on the court last year, and overall slightly better due to his offensive impact.
- To get a feel for Marshall's phenomenal passing skills, check out the video above. As a bigger guard who doesn't need shots to be effective, Marshall certainly seems like a nice potential complement to the rest of the Bucks' young core. It's tough to foresee him as a starter or long-term piece given his spotty track record to date, but he's still just 22 and could be a nice foil for the more shot-happy Brandon Knight and Jabari Parker, as well as a capable pick-and-roll playmaker for Larry Sanders and Henson. Either way he's a nice gamble for a guy making the minimum, especially on a young Bucks team that doesn't boast anyone else with his primary skill (hint: passing).
- Here's his shot chart courtesy of the good folks at Nylon Calculus, which is exactly what you'd expect:
Bingo, I got action.— Kendall Marshall (@KButter5) July 19, 2014