The rise of the 6'3" Sophomore from Sin City may end up being one of the foundations upon which a successful 2015-16 is built. A whirling dervish who consistently brought energy and became an offensive rebounding cult hero, Marcus faces a crucial offseason as he will look to morph from pleasant surprise to top contributor. Before we get to assigning him his summer hoops coursework, let's look back at his sophomore season.
Marcus started off as a part of the backup rotation, earning double digit minutes in each of Stanford's first five games. Against Delaware, he had seven points, three assists and a steal in 12 minutes. After that, however, he fell out of the rotation, receiving no more than four minutes for four consecutive games and then absorbing a DNP in Stanford's biggest win of the year, the victory in Austin. The coaches ran him out onto the floor for 14 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and his ascent was underway after that. He spent January as a 20-minute per-game player, and then the coaches elevated him into essentially a full-time starter in February, as he averaged just under 30 minutes a night through the season's conclusion. So what did he bring to the table? Let's look at the numbers.
One of the best traits Marcus had was an understanding of his own game, which is rare sometimes for even experienced players. He wisely limited his three point shots, since that was not a strength of his game. From January through the end of the season, he took 33 shots from behind the arc, a total that amounted to only 22% of his field goal attempts. Why was that good? Because he was extremely effective attacking the bucket. Over that same three-month stretch, Marcus shot 57% on his two-point shots. That tied Michael Humphrey for the highest mark on the team by a healthy margin. As great as he was, keep in mind that as a post Humphrey is far more likely to shoot that well. For a guard to do that well is exceptional. Pac-12 Player of the Year Joseph Young shot 52% from inside three. Chasson Randle shot 44%. The team as a whole only shot 46% on its two-point shots for the season. More often than not, good things happened when #15 went to the bounce.
Marcus also demonstrated a knack for rebounding. He secured 12% of available defensive rebounds while he was on the floor. That mark was the best for players under 6'6" on the team, and sixth-best on the team overall. He also secured 6% of available offensive rebounds. Combine that with the athleticism he brought to the court, and you have a player with an overall PER of 13.7, 6th highest on the team. Essentially, Marcus was the third-most valuable guard behind Chasson and Anthony, and only the primary bigs had better PER's than he did. The key now is for him to equip himself with the weapons sufficient enough to be a part of this team's leadership.
Summer Homework: The first place to start is on defense. Despite his athleticism and obvious energy level, Marcus by his own admission didn't bring it consistently on the defensive end, and his 105.9 DRtg reflects that pretty accurately. Oftentimes, it was the little things that eluded Marcus. Like the whole team, he struggled in transition, not necessarily by failing to get back, but by failing to get back and match up with the correct man. Stanford was far too often caught in mismatches before the ball even crossed half-court. That's about being alert and communicating, and both Marcus and the team will need to improve those kinds of details if they are to become exceptional defensively.
On offense, Marcus needs to become a legit threat from behind the arc. With his breathtaking quickness, he could become virtually unguardable if teams have to respect his jump shot. The only recourse with a player like that is to foul, and that leads us to the final area of his offense that requires bettering. Marcus shot 49% from the foul line, a rate that's going to be lethal to Stanford's offense if it continues through the inevitable increase in his usage in 2015-16. Free throws are largely about concentration, much like his defensive areas for improvement. Three point shooting is about repetition, getting shots up and down at high volume. It's a respectable amount of work for a summer, but if he can make measurable progress in these areas, Stanford's really going to have something special in #15.
One of far too many players to receive an "Incomplete" on his season report card through no fault of his own. A wrist injury cost Malcolm his sophomore season, which was especially difficult when looking back at the Cardinal's difficulties with backcourt depth. Reputedly an even better leaper than Marcus, it's safe to say that Malcolm will bring athleticism off the bench. It's hard to speculate about what else he may be bringing to the table considering he's played all of 16 games in his career and it will have been over a year and a half since his last one when he steps on the floor.
Summer Homework: Court time. As much as he can possibly get. The Cardinal's European Vacation should afford him a shot at playing in organized games and catching up under those circumstances better than if it was to be a normal summer. Given his athleticism, the more reliable he can get his jumper, the better. Maybe a best of 100 games of H-O-R-S-E against his brother...
Cartwright found his way onto the court for almost 400 minutes this year, including 27 in the Cardinal's win over Texas. He played in every game for Stanford this year, albeit on numerous occasions less than five minutes per game. Like most freshmen, his offense was ahead of his defense. He had an ORtg of 102.5 and a DRtg of 106.4, numbers which should improve next year as he assumes a far more substantial role in the Cardinal backcourt. If there is one encouraging sign from his sporadic and limited playing time this season, it's that he essentially managed a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio. With the heavy workload of Chasson and Anthony, the coaches seemed reluctant to put him on the floor for heavy minutes during conference play, and like Christian Sanders, it's hard to find the groove when you aren't getting on the court. He showed flashes of court awareness, willingness on defense, and a stroke that should outperform his numbers from this season.
Summer Homework: Needs to work on his handle. It's not necessarily a weakness, but it needs to be a strength given how much time he's likely to spend as the primary initiator in Stanford's offense. Also, his freshman year should be the last one in which he shoots 65% from the foul line.
All three of these players figure to get ample playing time in 2015-16. There's no way they are going to progress far enough this summer to make us forget the Platinum Backcourt, but they all must progress if Stanford is to make any sort of a run at all next season. The good news is that offense is usually easier to improve with individual work, so all three will have ample time
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