Throughout the course of a turbulent 2013-14 season, the Los Angeles Lakers had very few reasons to be optimistic.
One, though, was the infectious presence of Kendall Marshall, whose rapid ascension from failed lottery pick and D-League standout to one of the NBA's top passers gave fans clad in purple and gold reason to smile.
Over the course of 54 games (including 45 starts), Marshall averaged 8.8 assists (No. 2 overall behind Chris Paul) while recording an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.18, a mark that ranked No. 5 among all qualified players last season, per ESPN.com.
A 39.9 percent conversion rate from beyond the arc was icing on the cake for the emerging Marshall, but those surface-level numbers weren't indicative of much more than prosperity in Mike D'Antoni's run-and-gun offense, which is prone to statistical inflation.
As a result, the Lakers decided to waive Marshall on Thursday afternoon, according to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski:
Lakers waiving guard Kendall Marshall, but have interest in bringing him back on a new deal if he clears waivers, league sources tell Yahoo.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 18, 2014
In a corresponding move, the Lakers proceeded to lock up shooting guard Xavier Henry to a one-year deal at the veteran minimum, according to ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin:
The Lakers have reached a one-year agreement to bring back Xavier Henry on a minimum contract, per league sources.— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) July 18, 2014
And as Forum Blue and Gold's Darius Soriano mentions, waiving Marshall was a move the Lakers had to make from a monetary standpoint:
Marshall’s salary for this upcoming season – $915,243 — was not guaranteed, so the Lakers take no hit for waiving Marshall and open up that amount of cap space. This may not seem important, but, in reality, it was a needed move if the team wants to keep Ryan Kelly while also signing Nick Young to his reported deal.
As we have discussed, the Lakers, due to various cap holds and the fact that Jordan Hill had some cap space to spend. Most of that space was earmarked for Young who agreed to a 4 year, $21.3 million deal. However the Lakers’ winning bid on that guy used up $3.25 million in cap space and now they must still sign Young. Thus, Marshall and his non-guaranteed deal are waived.
While the Lakers are letting go of a capable distributor for the time being, the front office's logic is hard to argue with at this stage in the game.
Not only has general manager Mitch Kupchak rounded up depth at point guard in the form of Jeremy Lin and rookie Jordan Clarkson, but Steve Nash remains under contract for next season at a hefty $9,701,000, according to ShamSports.
Additionally, the Lakers were desperate to add depth at shooting guard behind Kobe Bryant, and they did so effectively by securing an able body like Henry at a cost that won't impact the team's short- or long-term financial flexibility.
Sure, his basic numbers were nowhere near as eye-popping as Marshall's, but Henry showed real progress last season, averaging career highs of 10.0 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.0 steals in 21.1 minutes per game before his season was derailed by wrist and knee ailments.
Consider Marshall's many defensive flaws, and it's easy to see why L.A. sent him packing.
Last season, the Lakers were largely putrid on defense, allowing the league's third-most points per 100 possessions (107.9), according to NBA.com's stats database.
But with Marshall on the floor, that number somehow ballooned to an even more ghastly 109 points per 100 possessions, which would have ranked a fraction below the Milwaukee Bucks' league-worst mark.
Conversely, the Lakers defense was actually respectable with Henry on the floor, as D'Antoni's unit allowed just 103.7 points per 100 possessions when Henry was holding down the fort on the perimeter, according to NBA.com.
Factor in Marshall's deficiencies as an individual defender, and it's clear the Lakers had to make the swap.
Just take a look at the points per possession each player yielded in specific play types and how they ranked when compared to their peers in the following table:
|Kendall Marshall||0.94 (No. 229 overall)||0.8 (No. 115 overall)||1.0 (No. 224 overall)|
|Xavier Henry||0.74 (No. 75 overall)||0.73 (No. 61 overall)||0.99 (No. 215 overall)|
After the Lakers defense proved to be an absolute sieve on the perimeter (No. 17 overall in opponent's three-point percentage) and in transition (1.15 points per possession, No. 22 overall, per Synergy Sports), the decision to retain Henry makes even more sense.
"(Henry) plays big, plays strong," D'Antoni said last November, according to McMenamin. "I think he’s a 3-2, he can play whatever he wants. And then Blake just makes up for it. He’s just a tough sucker. He’s just tough and he’s not going to back down from anybody. I don’t care how tall you are, he’s coming at you."
Did the Lakers make the right call waiving Kendall Marshall and signing Xavier Henry?
Sure, Marshall's flashy playmaking will be missed from a superficial standpoint. But the Lakers had glaring defensive holes to address on the perimeter and desperately needed to shore up their depth at the 2 behind Bryant with an athletic, committed defender like Henry.