After accompanying rookie Kendall Marshall to the D-League and keeping close watch through the first couple games of his assignment, Hunter returned to observe the young point guard yet again. That said, this latter visit is a bit different. It's widely believed that Marshall will re-join the Suns after donning a Jam uniform for the last time (until further notice) on Thursday night.
Though the floor general has shown some steady playmaking skills, he has also struggled offensively in every other category. Unable to get into a groove, Marshall has shot poorly, and furthermore, has looked confused and tentative when it comes to attacking the basket. With that in mind, the youngster was undoubtedly looking to end his first NBADL stint on a high note.
If winning the contest was as positive of a note as there could be, Marshall would be on top of the world right now. The Jam blasted past the Stampede by a score of 107-87, and the prospect was tied for first on his team with a plus/minus rating of +23 for the game.
But of course, the NBA D-League is also largely about individual development and being able to standout from the rest. During Bakersfield's balanced effort on Thursday, Marshall failed to do that. In fact, he was also seemingly overshadowed by a couple of his teammates.
Much like his previous outings, Marshall once again looked lost with regard to taking advantage of scoring opportunities. The 21 year-old shot just 2 of 8 from the field, including 1 of 4 from down town. When the defense swarms or tries to trap him, Marshal's path to the basket is shut down. Not one to power through and attempt to take the contact just yet, the guard often gets flustered inside.
As fate would have it, someone whose assertiveness Marshall could learn from is his Bakersfield backcourt mate, Jerel McNeal. The combo guard is a bold and savvy shooter, and has the confidence to push the tempo and set himself up for an array of pull-up jumpers. Being the aggressor against the Stampede, McNeal scored a team-high 18 points on 6 of 10 from the field, and got to the line eight times. Setting the tone for his team, McNeal was joined by three double-digit scorers off the bench.
After a hot start to the season, James Nunnally has been the odd man out in lieu of some of the Jam's recent incoming NBA assignees. With Damion James sidelined for the contest, however, Nunnally popped off the bench to add 13 points of his own, while sinking two long bombs as well. Not afraid to take shots from around the court, the swingman hoisted up 12, the second most on his team.
But when it comes to running the open floor, perhaps no NBADLer has done it better than Marshall so far this season. In order to be a successful player in the NBA, his offensive game needs to be a more versatile one in order to keep opposing defenders guessing. Despite his cold shooting stroke on Thursday, however, Marshall still managed to dish out 9 assists.
That said, with a clear path to work his magic, the rookie is a crafty playmaker. With some more efficient and capable scorers on the Suns, perhaps some of the good looks he provides teammates won't be lost to the wayside. Solely judging Marshall on his first D-League stint alone, however, it's clear he's a work in progress. For better or worse.