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Devyn Marble finding his identity with defense, unselfish play

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The rookie swingman has played relatively limited minutes this season, but is finally starting to come into his own.

Devyn Marble
Devyn Marble
Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

After a strong four years at Iowa, swingman Devyn Marble found himself waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Draft night before his name was finally called at 56 overall. The pick, which belonged to the Denver Nuggets but had been traded to the Orlando Magic along with Evan Fournier for Arron Afflalo, meant Marble would have the chance to continue to career at the highest level possible.

During the Orlando Pro Summer League, Marble impressed with his versatility, showing he could play point guard, shooting guard, small forward and even power forward at times. He also showed a smooth stroke from beyond the arc, an ability to go up and rebound with anybody, and get into you on the defensive end and make you work hard. It seemed as though Magic general manager Rob Hennigan had once again hit a potential home run with a late draft pick, something he did with big man Kyle O'Quinn two years prior.

In training camp and early in the season, Marble impressed coach Jacque Vaughn, despite playing sparingly. Then, in one of his few early season appearances against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Marble hurt his shoulder, forcing him to miss over a month. His rehab came along slowly, but finally, after a long time away, Marble got his chance when the team sent him to their NBA D-League affiliate, the Erie BayHawks. Marble played in two games with Erie, averaging 20 points, 4.5 rebounds, and four assists in 28 minutes of action.

Upon his return from Erie, Marble was thrust into Orlando's lineup, playing over 20 minutes against the Brooklyn Nets. While he didn't have success scoring that game, he made his impact felt with his play on the defensive end, locking down Joe Johnson in the fourth quarter. The former Hawkeye played sparingly in two of the team's next three games, before getting his big break against the Portland Trail Blazers last weekend.

With Tobias Harris and Fournier both out with injures, Vaughn turned to his rookie swingman for the starting role at small forward. Marble didn't have an impact on the game scoring, but his energy was felt in other ways, as he wreaked havoc on the defensive end, grabbing five steals in a narrow loss to Portland.

Following the Magic's victory against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, a game in which Marble missed all seven of his shot attempts but was able to make his presence felt on the defensive end, the rookie took some time to talk about how, even when his shot isn't falling, he can make an impact on the defensive end.

"I take pride in the defensive end and just try to make it difficult on guys." Devyn Marble

"I'm not just an offensive player. So, if my shot isn't falling, I'm not useless," he said. "I take pride in the defensive end and just try to make it difficult on guys and make them have to go to more of their weaknesses than playing towards their strengths."

Even when his shot isn't falling, his teammates continue to encourage him to shoot the ball, because they know he can play a big role on the defensive end. "Even when my shot isn’t falling, they feel like I can play defense and rebound and cause mischief on the defensive end," said Marble. Later, the rookie told me the team, as a whole, has picked up its defensive energy, not letting opponents get anything easy.

While Marble has made most of his impact on D, he's also helped the Magic's offense. He's very willing to get out and run, which the team has done successfully in their last two games, both wins. Marble also gives the team another ballhandler with Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton, which can cause mismatches and helps the ball constantly move and not stick to one side of the floor, an issue the offense has had to deal with a lot this season.

"When I'm out there, I'm very unselfish, so I create plays for others," said Marble. "I don't just sit out there and jack up bad shots. I just keep moving the ball, take what the defense gives me. If I drive, and [Nikola] Vucevic’s man helps up, [I] drop it off to Vooch. Just making the simple plays; making the easy play has helped us all, I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that."

A 2014 second-team All-American, and first-team All-Big Ten player, Marble said that he feels as though he's grown a lot, and being around his teammates has been a big help. "I’ve learned a lot just being around the guys at practice and [getting] constant repetitions. My game has expanded a lot to now where it’s at. I think I’m only going to get better as I continue to get opportunities to play and I’m just getting my rhythm and getting used to the offense, all those things."

Outside of what he's been able to do on the court, Marble says that the veterans on the team have really helped him with the learning curve of going from college life, to the NBA. "Yeah, pretty much all of them. Ben [Gordon], Willie [Green], Luke [Ridnour], they’ve all, Channing [Frye], have been more than helpful in helping with my learning curve."

Despite seeing a limited role in the first half of the season, Marble has put in the work, and found his identity on the team. If he continues to play with the intensity and unselfishness that he has, it'll be hard for Vaughn to remove him from the rotation, even once his team is fully healthy.

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