Pelicans’ Naji Marshall strives to excel in the NBA

By Will Pembroke, Show Manager

In the unlikely event that you’ve been living under a rock for the past month, the NBA season has begun. This season will mark the first time in two years the league is able to start on schedule with fans, thanks to loosening COVID-19 restrictions across the country.

As a university, Xavier has shown an ability to produce NBA level talent on a relatively consistent basis. 

Arguably the most famous Xavier alumni who has made it to the league is retired forward and NBA champion David West. 

Other notable Musketeers who have spent time in the NBA are James Posey, Jordan Crawford, Semaj Christon, J.P. Macura, Trevon Bluiett, Edmond Sumner and Naji Marshall. The final two on that list, Sumner and Marshall, played significant roles on their respective teams last season. 

Former Xavier forward Naji Marshall has struggled in his sophomore season with New Orleans Pelicans after showing flashes of promise during his rookie year. Marshall signed a multi-year contract this offseason.

Sumner played his way into a starting role in the Indiana Pacers guard rotation last year, averaging 7.5 points on over 50% shooting from the field and just under 40% from three. 

Unfortunately, Sumner tore his left Achilles before the season started and is unlikely to play at any point this year, as he was waived after being traded to the Brooklyn Nets. Marshall, on the other hand, has played in all seven of the New Orleans Pelicans games thus far, seeing regular time off their bench.

Playing around 13 minutes per game so far this season, Marshall has struggled to be productive. He is shooting an abysmal 24% from the floor and has yet to make a three-point field goal this season. 

Marshall’s minutes are down roughly a third from last season in large part due to his offensive struggles. In terms of defense, Naji’s 108.7 defensive rating is currently sitting just above the league average of 112.3, so that’s at least something for him to hang his hat on. 

Although the sample size of seven games is small, Marshall is at risk of losing more playing time if things don’t get better on the offensive end. 

Last season, Marshall showed flashes of offensive utility, averaging 7.7 points per game and shooting nearly 35% from the perimeter. 

As he is currently playing on a Pelicans team without their best player in Zion Williamson, now is the time for Marshall to shine if he wants to solidify his spot in the rotation. Marshall needs to show the shooting and defensive prowess he did last season to stick around in New Orleans.

After signing a multi-year contract at the end of last season, it is time for Marshall to prove himself to the Pelicans along with the  rest of the NBA as the electric two-way wing we came to know him as at Xavier.