It’s way too early to call it from this far out, but the Orlando Magic’s 2014 draft could go down in history as one of the best defensive drafts ever. Or, at least, that certainly looks like what Magic general manager Rob Hennigan aspired to do: with two lottery picks, the Magic invested in two players who clearly come with more defensive skills than offensive skills in Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton. But the Magic also acquired a deep second-rounder, the #56 pick overall, in the same trade that brought Evan Fournier to Orlando in exchange for Arron Afflalo: Devyn Marble.
Marble always stuck out to me as a prospect because, for some reason, I saw a video of his Draft Combine interview where he was instantly memorable thanks to his pride, intensity and bluntness.
While Marble severely misjudged where he’d be taken within the draft, what’s true is that, in landing with the Magic, Marble could hardly have found a better destination. As a young, hard-working self-starter who’s been the subject of a lot of doubts, Marble is surrounded by lots of similar types on the Magic roster.
Marble’s seriously abbreviated rookie year, in which he played just 16 NBA games and also six NBDL games, is, in truth, probably what Orlando expected to receive from Marble in his rookie year. And also, as the Magic also probably expected, Marble has put in a ton of work over the summer. The all-around improvements are already showing in his game — and in his stat line — this preseason.
While Marble has yet to show meaningful consistency in his long-distance shooting — and yes, the exact same thing can be said for many of his teammates — his 21-point effort against the Houston Rockets last week is illustrative of the confidence that Marble nonetheless carries with him:
Even with all of the shots Marble drained in that game, though, perhaps the most exciting thing on that highlight reel for Magic coaches was Marble’s two game-sealing rebounds, which both came with under 10 seconds to play in a one-possession game.
In fact, even with the 21-point outburst, Marble’s per-minute scoring and shooting accuracy has actually taken a dip compared to last preseason. But nearly every other facet of Marble’s game is showing improvement, such as offensive rebounding: Marble grabbed 2.7 percent of available offensive rebounds during last year’s NBA regular season. So far this preseason, that number is up to 8.2 percent, which is pretty significant for a guard. Last season, no player 6’6″ (Marble’s height) or shorter grabbed a higher percentage than Tony Allen’s 7.2 percent. You don’t get offensive boards in the NBA by accident, either. Look at how Marble had to leap over three Miami Heat players for a put-back in last week’s preseason game:
From last season to this preseason, Marble has also seen a dramatic increase in his usage rate (from 13.1 percent to 23.7 percent), while keeping his turnover rate virtually identical (15 percent to 15.2 percent), showing that he’s able to maintain possession even while receiving significantly more ball-handling responsibility.
Marble’s assist percentage has also gone up, from 11.5 percent to 15.7 percent, thanks to his decisiveness and vision on plays like the following. Against Rio de Janeiro Flamengo in this month’s exhibition in Brazil, Marble was double-teamed off a pick-and-roll, a blitz he nullified with a quick pass to Jason Smith, who drained the open jumper:
It’s true: these are small plays instead of game-changing ones, and Marble isn’t about to overtake Payton or new veteran acquisition C.J. Watson anytime soon. But Marble was one of only two players from picks 51-60 in the 2014 NBA Draft to actually play in the NBA last year. The other, Cory Jefferson (#60 overall), received a lot of minutes with the Brooklyn Nets last year, but has already been waived and is hardly receiving any playing time this month as a member of the Phoenix Suns.
By contrast, Marble looks like he’s just starting his tenure with the Magic, instead of quietly sputtering to the end of his NBA career. Considering where Marble was drafted, that’s tremendous and unexpected value — well, unexpected to most anyone but him.