The Los Angeles Lakers are in a strange position this summer. They have been forced to nickel-and-dime players in order to comply with the byzantine rules regarding the league's salary cap. Point guard and fan-favorite Kendall Marshall was a roster casualty of these necessary maneuvers.
The Lakers officially waived Marshall on Friday to clear up the smidgen of salary-cap space needed to make a few other roster moves. The franchise's official Twitter account confirmed the news:
OFFICIAL: The Lakers have waived guard Kendall Marshall.— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) July 18, 2014
As Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski noted on Twitter, the Lakers could be looking to bring back Marshall if he clears waivers:
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
With the Lakers making moves for the likes of Jeremy Lin and holding onto Steve Nash, re-signing Marshall would leave the team with a wealth of point guards who offer similar capabilities and deficiencies.
The Los Angeles Times' Eric Pincus gave an excellent summary of the financial gymnastics routine that Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak had to perform in order to make all the numbers work for the salary cap. Pincus explains his take on Marshall as a salary-cap expendable:
The Lakers' salary and holds total $58.6 million, leaving $4.5 million in space below the $63.1-million salary cap -- enough to sign Young to a four-year $19.3-million contract. That's still not quite the $21.5 million as promised. That space would increase if Kelly's qualifying offer were revoked, or if he leaves for another team. Marshall was a casualty of the math, opening up an additional $407,907 in space to help the Lakers bring back Young.
Marshall was due to make approximately $915,000 in 2014-15, per Spotrac. He averaged 8.0 points and 8.8 assists per game last season while shooting 39.9 percent from beyond three-point range. These are admirable numbers, but the Lakers can account for these traits with the players already in the fold.
Bringing back Marshall could leave the team with up to four point guards, depending on the Lakers' decisions regarding Steve Nash and rookie Jordan Clarkson.
Nash is often talked about as a dud on the roster thanks to his $9.7 million cap hit for next season, per Spotrac. If he is healthy, he can bring a solid shooting stroke (49 percent from the field in his career) and his legendary court vision (9.9 assists per 36 minutes last season) to the Lakers, much in the way Marshall can.
The Lakers should ride out this year with Nash, as they won't have to worry about his contract on the cap in the future.
Lin is a better scorer than Marshall, averaging 15.6 points per 36 minutes and shooting 44.6 percent from the field last season. His 6'3" height also helps make up for his lackadaisical defense at times.
There is a sliver of hope for retaining Marshall if the Lakers decide to sign and develop the 6'5" Clarkson as a 2-guard, but the rookie's comments this summer have made it clear he envisions himself as a floor general.
"I feel like I was one of the better point guards in the draft, maybe the best,” Clarkson said in early July, via ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin. “Just falling out of the first round and being selected in the second round, but the number really doesn’t matter where you get drafted. It’s about the fit. That’s where I get my chip from."
The second-round pick has been excellent in summer league play, averaging 15.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in Las Vegas, via NBA.com. He brings length and athleticism to the point guard position, something that Marshall cannot hope to deliver.
Bringing in both Marshall and Clarkson would hinder the development of one of the two players as they fight for minutes.
For a team that gave up 107.9 points per 100 possessions last season, as per ESPN.com's Hollinger rankings, a bevy of slow point guards would hurt the rest of the team.
Nash and Lin are already noted for their lack of foot speed and limited defensive abilities; Marshall would only compound that issue. For the Lakers to make up for deficiencies on the roster, they should bring back Clarkson as a point guard, assuming it came down to a choice between him and Marshall.
In terms of overall team balance, Kupchak and the purple and gold's eventual coach still have plenty to figure out regarding the rest of the roster. The Lakers have reportedly come to contract agreements with Ryan Kelly, Wesley Johnson and Xavier Henry, per Pincus.
The team has a glut of power forwards, with Kelly, rookie Julius Randle and Carlos Boozer at this spot, not to mention the likes of Jordan Hill, Ed Davis—per McMenamin—and Robert Sacre tabbed for forward/center roles. The Lakers don't need another pileup at point guard on this fledgling roster.
The Lakers would be better off using the remaining roster spots to address the lack of flexibility at shooting guard and small forward.
Nick Young projects as a possible small forward, but his streaky shooting is best suited to a sixth-man role supporting the likes of Kobe Bryant. Henry and Johnson are both promising players, but there is no guarantee Bryant will remain healthy for an entire season.
Using a roster spot on an available veteran like Shawn Marion could help the Lakers defensively without sacrificing any long-term cap money. This would give the Lakers more flexibility at two positions rather than just one if they bring back Marshall.
Should the Lakers bring back Kendall Marshall if he clears waivers?
Of course, there is the possibility that the Lakers don't have to make any difficult choices if Marshall doesn't clear waivers and is picked up by another team. No one can argue against his court vision and ability to fit in well with his teammates.
Marshall doesn't score much, but he would be a solid backup on a team looking for someone to run a second unit of players with a starting point guard's passing ability.
Note: All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.