Naji Marshall, a four-star recruit out of Hargrave Military Academy (57th RSCI) in 2017, has blossomed into a strong two-way player for the Musketeers. Marshall tested the 2019 NBA Draft waters under the representation of Nathan Conley (PROSPORT Management) and ultimately decided to return for his junior season. Halfway through his junior campaign, Marshall has appeared to take significant steps forward. On a slight uptick in usage, Marshall has increased his scoring output and AST% while taking better care of the ball and showing tangible improvement on the defensive end. At 6’7”, 220 pounds with a ~7'0" wingspan, Marshall possesses ideal size for a hybrid forward at the next level, with appealing secondary playmaking upside and defensive tools to boot. Though his shooting has been a bit inconsistent, Marshall's physical profile and versatile skill set on both ends of the floor will be enticing to NBA decision-makers and may very well thrust him into 2020 Draft early entrant consideration.
Tale of the Tape
Marshall utilizes his strength, length, touch, and fluidity as a driver to finish efficiently at the rim, currently ranking in the 92nd percentile by converting at a 1.439 PPP clip on non post-up attempts. Marshall attacks the basket in a variety of ways, leveraging ball-screens as a handler to create driving angles, opportunistically cutting into soft spots when off the ball, selling in-and-out dribbles, fluidly changing directions en route to the basket, etc. He's quick enough to get by slower-footed bigs, but more notably thrives at bullying smaller guards by using his strength to create separation and length extension to finish at the rim. Marshall’s natural touch around the rim, respectable FT%, and occasional flashes of NBA range give credence to the possibility of eventual jump shot improvement, something that would go very far in expanding his offensive translatability to the next level.
In the clip below, we highlight Marshall’s ability to finish at the rim.
It’s important to consider that Marshall is fairly selective in picking his spots to attack the rim, typically seeking momentary opposing defensive lapses, distinct leverage advantage, or a clear cut mismatch. Currently, more than 50% of his shot attempts are jumpers. He could stand to shift that shot mix in the direction of his rim-finishing strength and/or improve the consistency of his jumper.
Perhaps the most compelling aspect of Marshall’s offensive game is his feel as a creator for others. Marshall frequently zips deft, well-placed entry passes to bigs for easy finishes, weaves bounce passes through traffic in transition, and kicks out skip passes to the corners for open threes. Marshall sees the floor really well at 6'7" and leverages his prowess as a driver to create efficient opportunities for his teammates. Marshall's vision and playmaking are exemplified in the context of Xavier’s dribble-drive offense and should translate fairly seamlessly at the next level.
In the clip below, we highlight Marshall’s vision and craft as a playmaker.
While Marshall thrives as a playmaker at the college level, it remains to be seen if this will translate at the next level if the shooting doesn't come around. If he carries minimal gravity as a shooter, defenses won't respect his jumper and will, in turn, be able to sag off and prevent him from gaining advantage as a drive-and-kick threat.
Naji Marshall brings a lot of the table –– He has taken on a leadership at Xavier, plays rock solid defense, and plays the game with an impressive level of poise and unselfishness. While some NBA teams will likely be scared off by his poor shooting clips, others may look past these numbers and see an intriguing secondary playmaker with high defensive switch potential. Marshall is a strong 2020 NBA Draft sleeper candidate that currently projects as a mid-2nd round pick. If the jump shot comes around, he could very well eventually carve out a role as a rotation player in the NBA.
Statistics courtesy of Synergy Sports Technology and Sports Reference
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