Remember when you were a little kid in school going to the nurses’ office?
You’d walk in and see dozens of sick, painful children waiting to be attended to. Kids would be lying down, nurses would be checking them out. It was an ugly scene.
That, my friends, is exactly what the Los Angeles Lakers training room has looked like this season.
Let’s just run down the list, shall we? Of course, the most devastating loss is that of Kobe Bryant, but when you also consider that three of their best point guards in Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake are all sidelined, it almost gets comical at this point. Not to mention, Xavier Henry, who was playing well, suffered a knee injury a few games back, and will miss some time.
Okay, now this is just getting stupid.
However, the bright spot in the decimation of the Lakers lineup is opportunity for younger players to step in and contribute. And because of this vicious injury cycle in Los Angeles, fantasy owners will always be keeping an eye out for the next member of the Lakers to get their opportunity.
We’re looking at you, Kendall Marshall.
Friday night was a memorable evening for Marshall, the second-year point guard out of UNC. Starting in place of, well, everyone, Marshall had a career night, netting 18 points to go along with a whopping 15 assists, six rebounds and two triples. The breakout performance was very encouraging, but fantasy owners should have already been after this kid, strictly based off of opportunity and uptick in playing time. Still, after this monster outing, Marshall is still only owned in 16.9 percent of ESPN leagues. He’s a must-add for the short term if you are lacking at the point guard position, especially if you need assists, something he is no stranger to. Granted, 15 assists is a ton, and shouldn’t be expected, but double-digit assists are nothing new to Marshall. During his college days, he averaged an impressive eight assists per game during his tenure at North Carolina, and had a fair share of double-digit assist games. Those aren’t very easy to come by in college games, folks. From watching him, he always has his head up, looking for the open pass, and shows great floor general awareness. And sure, he’s a bit raw, but this is a guy who was dominating the D-League (yes, I know it’s the D-League), averaging 19.4 points, 9.6 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.7 triples per game.
It also helps that Marshall is playing under a head coach who has been known to get the best out his point guards.
Under Mike D’antoni, a handful of guys struggled at first, but then started to figure things out and post strong numbers. Obviously, the main one that comes to mind is Steve Nash, who won consecutive MVP’s. And while Nash was always a tremendous talent, one can argue that D’antoni’s presence made that team and offense click. And, of course, who can forget the emergence of Linsanity and Jeremy Lin. Remember, Lin struggled during his first start against the Celtics, but then took the NBA by storm. In fact, D’antoni recently compared Marshall to Lin. Could that result in similar success in the coming weeks?
Only time will tell. But it is worth noting that point guards under D’antoni tend to post better offensive numbers. Take a look at Raymond Felton with the Knicks, for example. During the first half of the 2010 season, Felton was posting career numbers. His 17.1 points per game were a career high, as well as his nine assists. It’s just the nature of his system. It’s a fast-paced style of offense, where point guards tend to focus more on offense than defense. The Lakers are currently 4th in the NBA in pace (98.9), so Marshall will continue to see plenty of volume for fantasy owners. He’ll get the ball a lot, too, as prior to his injury, Steve Blake was averaging a very healthy 75 offensive touches per game for the Lakers.
Will we nights like Friday night on a consistent basis from Marshall? Not unless he’s secretly Chris Paul. However, he has very strong fantasy upside based on his opportunity and situation around him.
Run, don’t walk, to you waiver wire and grab him while you still can.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.