With the NBA's Summer League drawing to a close, for many NBA players it is time to wait and wonder. Preseason is nearly three months away and for hundreds who played these past few weeks, the question is "Will I be there?"
Two such players are Kendall Marshall and Marcus Paige. These two have a lot in common. They both played the point at North Carolina. They both wore the legendary #5 jersey. They both are among the most beloved Tar Heels in recent memory. And they both are praying that their efforts this Summer will be rewarded with a spot on an NBA roster.
Here is their current outlook following two impressive Summer League performances:
This has got to be old hat for Marshall by now. The former Cousy Award winner has had a lot of twists and turns since he was taken by the Suns with the 13th pick in the 2012 Draft. He's played on four different NBA rosters, had an ACL tear, and been dropped down to the D-League (excuse me, that's G League now) twice. And now he's fighting tooth and nail to make his fifth roster, the Los Angeles Clippers.
Marshall is an interesting prospect for the Clips. The story of the summer was their trading Chris Paul to Houston. Paul, the best pure point guard in the league, takes about ten assists a game with him and LA is desperate to find them somewhere. Patrick Beverley will likely get the starting job, but he's a defense-first guard and not a facilitator. Neither is Austin Rivers (grrr), who now figures to have a larger role in his father's rotation.
Marshall is famous for his playmaking ability and is as gifted a passer as any player in the league. He could very well be the answer as a second-unit PG and his play in Summer League went a long way towards proving that.
In his four games with the Clippers, Marshall averaged 6.2 ppg and 7.8 apg in 20.8 minutes of play. He had a masterful command of the offense and the team scored much more efficiently when he was on the floor. Tar Heel fans were also treated to the sight of him linking up effectively with Brice Johnson and Isaiah Hicks, as they both attempt to carve out roles on the Clippers as well.
For good measure, Marshall hounded All-World Prospect Lonzo Ball into a dismal showing on his Summer League debut. Marshall went for 11 points and 11 assists while helping to hold Ball to just 1-15 shooting. It must have been strange for Laker fans to see the point guard of the future being taken to school by the point guard of the past (Marshall started 50 games for the D'Antoni Lakers in 2014).
Unfortunately for Marshall, while he was leading the Summer League roster, the Clippers were making moves in free agency. Last week, the Clippers signed Milos Teodosic, a 30-year-old star point guard from Greece, to a two-year deal. Teodosic, like Marshall, is renowned for his precision passing and is a close friend of the newly arrived Patrick Beverley, who he played with at Olympiakos. With a third point guard now signed, the Clippers look to be running out of spots.
Some things just don't change: Kendall Marshall still doesn't have any luck. His two short but dominant stints with the Reno Bighorns and Delaware 87ers showed that he's too good for the G-League. But, despite his solid play in July, he looks to be facing an uphill battle to make the roster in Los Angeles. Hopefully, the right opportunity comes soon: He is absolutely an NBA-caliber player.
Kendall Marshall's successor at UNC is also faced with an interesting situation. After a year with the Salt Lake City Stars in the G-league, Paige's summer session with the Minnesota Timberwolves provides a great opportunity for him to make his first roster.
Like the Clippers, the Timberwolves have traded away their starting point guard, Ricky Rubio, as well as Kris Dunn, whose rookie season didn't meet their lofty expectations. The Wolves acquired Jeff Teague, who figures to have the starting job locked up, but the only other point guard on the roster is Tyus Jones (Another one?!), who struggled in his first two seasons in Minnesota. Minnesota needs a steady hand at backup point guard, as well as shooting to help stretch the floor.
Paige was given ample opportunity to prove himself during the Summer League. He played all five games, averaging a team-high 29.8 minutes. He led the team in scoring and assists, tallying 12.4 ppg and 5.0 apg. He looked to be comfortably in control of the offense, and showed improved passing skills from his four years at Chapel Hill. The Wolves clearly meant to test Paige's ability to run an efficient, attack and he looked up for the challenge.
The Wolves will have a new look this year, with Jimmy Butler also arriving in Minnesota. Both Butler and Andrew Wiggins thrive in isolation positions and taking their men off the dribble. That calls for their backcourt teammates to be able to play off ball and hit shots created by dribble penetration. Paige has experience with that from playing alongside Joel Berry, particularly in his senior year, when Berry assumed much of the ball handling duties and Paige was more of a combo guard.
The challenge facing Paige, as it has been in the past, is consistently knocking down the 3-ball. His outside shooting was inconsistent at times during Summer League, particularly in the tournament game against the Warriors. But he is well-known to be a high IQ, high effort player who can quickly learn offensive schemes. If he can convince the Wolves that his shot will drop, he will have a very good shot at grabbing a spot.