Jan 23, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat shooting guard Ray Allen (34) drives to the basket as Los Angeles Lakers point guard Kendall Marshall (12) defends during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Lakers Defense Has Plummeted Since Kendall Marshall's Insertion

Second year man, Kendall Marshall, has been one of the few bright spots in this albatross of a season for the Los Angeles Lakers. Since being inserted into the starting line-up on 1/3/14, Marshall has been performing well on the offensive side of the ball. As a starter, Marshall has been averaging 12.1 points and 11.9 assists per game which is the highest in the NBA in that time. Despite exhibiting poor mechanics on shot, he’s been knocking down the 3 point shot at a remarkably efficient 47.4 percent.


Unfortunately for the Lakers, Marshall’s play on the offensive end of the court hasn’t resulted in wins. The Lakers are 3-10 since 12/31 which is when Marshall started getting significant minutes and that places them tied for dead last in the Western Conference.  with the New Orleans Pelicans since that time.


While it’s hard to point the finger at any one player for the Lakers demise, especially one that has been playing so well offensively, there are two sides of the court and Marshall’s play on the defensive end has been shockingly bad. The Lakers struggles lately have been mainly on the defensive side of the ball.


What we can see with our own eyes in watching Marshall play as he has taken a large role with the team is that he lacks any semblance of lateral quickness. This is most prevalent when he is in an open space, such as defending a fast break, and the offensive player blows by right by him. In these situations you don’t expect the defender to stop the offensive player since they are in a huge disadvantage, but this is where you can see just how slow Marshall moves. It is Marshall’s shortcomings in his defensive abilities that are hurting the Lakers on the defensive side of the ball.


Just how bad have the Lakers fallen off defensively? I’ll show you:


Lakers defensive numbers from start of the season to 12/30: (NBA rank for specified period parenthesis)

*all stats produced via NBA.com/Stats

44.7 Opponents FG% (12th)

34.4 Opponents 3pt% (6th)


103.6 Opponents ppg (28th)

103.9 Opponents Defensive Rating (18th)

47.7 Opponents points in the paint (29th)


23.0 Opponents Free Throw Attempts (14th)

-4.1 point differential (24th)


13-18 record (13th in West)


Lakers defensive numbers from 12/31 to now: 


47.7 Opponents FG% (29th)

34.8 Opponents 3pt% (14th)


111.7 Opponents ppg (30th)

110.7 Opponents Defensive Rating (29th)

51.4 Opponents points in the paint (30th)


24.7 Opponents free throw attempts (19th)

-8.2 point differential (28th)


3-10 (tied with NO for worse record in the West during that span)


Summary of team data:


  • Lakers are significantly worse defensively from 12/31 till today than they were 12/30 and before.
  • Marshall began getting significant minutes 12/31 until today.
  • Marshall was the only significant change from 12/31 till today
  • Giving up points in paint has been a problem all year long and while the numbers show it has gotten even worse, it is only a slight decline.
  • Prior to 12/31 the Lakers were slightly below average defensively, overall.
  • From 12/31 till today, the Lakers are the 2nd worse defensive team in the league (based on defensive rating)


If we focus only on the time that Marshall is on the floor, the numbers will match closely what we see in the Lakers as a team in the second half of their season above. Marshall’s defensive rating is 109.8, which means that the team gives up 109.8 per 100 possessions when Marshall is on the floor. That rating is inline with the teams overall defensive rating in the 2nd half and significantly higher than how they performed prior to Marshall leading the point.

Furthermore, that defensive rating would rank Marshall close to the bottom in the league for guards. For comparative purposes, Jason Terry ranks lowest amoungst guards at 112.9 and CJ Wason of Indiana ranks first at 91.2.


There are a number of reasons why the Lakers are a poor defensive team. Every Lakers’ player in the rotation has at least some percentage of the blame. What we can not ignore is that the Lakers went from a mediocre defensive team to an atrocious one . They are now the worse defensive team in the league. Is Kendall Marshall the reason? Not entirely.  But no there is no reasonable case to be made that at minimum there isn’t a correlation between Marshall’s insertion in the rotation to the pitfall defensively as a team. You can also make a strong case for causation.


You can reach me at the my Twitter handle, @fullcourtfern, or on Instagram @raining3sdotcom, to discuss this article, anything Lakers or NBA related, or if you want to invite me to go grab a beer somewhere in L.A. You’re paying of course.

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Tags: Kendall Marshall

  • Rigged4fun

    Here’s the key, Mashall along with the entire team are responsible for defense. There’s no defensive effort because the players don’t see it’s priority. Plus D’Antoni’s offensive setup contributes to this malaise. Sure it spreads the floor on offense, however besides the PG and the pivot man (Pau or Jordan) there’s no movement. The 4 other players distribute themselves around the perimeter and wait for a pass. There’s no rotation, no lane diving, no effort to rebound. This translates to the defensive posture as slow in transition and opens the lane on defense. In brief, the Lakers are only interested in launching 3pt shots, and their defensive effort becomes lost.

    • Daryl Peek

      Gotta disagree with the offensive system to a degree. Especially the three point shot attempts. Portland is running basically the same offense and shoots way more three point shots as a team. Golden State also. The Blazers stink defensively also but are more efficient offensively and rebound the basketball. GS is middle of the pack defensively. This is the difference; better overall talent, tenure and healthy are the keys. These thing allow them to crash the boards better as a team and thus protect possessions.

      We had a new group even before all of the injuries that’s been in constant flux all season. Communication is key to defending in this league. Trust is a huge factor in that process and you can only achieve that via experience. The loss of Blake and Farmar was HUGE! They both did a very good job communicating defensively and had the full trust of the big’s. No couple that with the chemistry of rotational consistency we had when they were both healthy. Marshall cannot be expected to fill those shoes by himself. Blake only played about 31 minutes a game and Farmar ran about 20. Meeks and Young are the back ups to Marshall. Offensive efficiency is lost when Marshall has to rest and this affects both sides of the ball. This is why we always start games strong but wear out by the third quarter. We’ve only got three players playing the guard position and one carries the burden of being our leading scorer, Nick Young.

      Now Couple that with only having one true SF. Young has to man three position on the court in games… PG, SG and SF. Johnson is the person that has most been affected by the loss of Blake and Farmar. His numbers have plummeted. Gasol is now forced to be a rim protector, something we all know he really does not want to do, and the lack of trust leads to constant communication break downs.

      The loss of 5 ball handlers has disrupted the flow of everything. look at our bench? On any given night all you see is two to three players and coaches. Keep in mind they practice this way also. Half the time Madsen has to suit up so they can run 5 on 5. This is why you don’t see any improvement like we did early on in the season. Too much blame game when the injuries are the biggest problem.

      This is a PG centered system with only one true ball handler and he’s a 2nd year player with very little NBA experience who was called up from the D-League last month. If you keep the big picture in proper perspective you’ll see it’s completely unfair to point fingers…

      • Fern Rea

        Awesome insight.

        You pointed many reasons why Marshall is struggling defensively and why the entire Lakers team struggles overall on the defensive end.

        The main thing I wanted to point out was just how much worse the Lakers have gotten defensively at the exact same time that Marshall started playing significant minutes. Regardless of why Marshall has struggled and if should be seen as understandable, he has struggled and it is affecting the team’s defense greatly.

        • Daryl Peek

          The premise is somewhat leading against Maarshall. First, Marshall is not a starting NBA PG. Next he’s not playing that bad given his offensive output. The team was porous defensively even before Kendall.

          Given we lost three of our better perimeter defenders which prompted the D-League emergency call up of Marshall it should be understandable as you say but the insinuation seems to put the blame on a player who would otherwise not be in the NBA right now let alone starting for the Lakers.

          • akku

            Another thing not mentioned Marshall’s minutes in some games wete 40+. You can’t expect a player of his level to lock down D and double double and play that many minutes.

          • Daryl Peek


          • Fern Rea

            Im not buying that argument. Kendall is not a defensive liablity because was playing 40+ minutes. The guy is 22 years old and stamina should not be an issue. The guy just has incredibly slow lateral movement and is the reason for his poor defense.

            And since I wrote this piece the numbers continue to support the position that Marshall is hurting the team defensively. On top of that, they are worst offensively when he is on the floor.

            Since 2/4 (When Jordan Farmar came back and his minutes went down)

            When Marshall is on the floor:

            Offensive Per 100 possisions: 99.9

            When Farmar is on the floor, per 100 possessions:

            OER: 106.9

            Even though Marshall assists on 47% of the baskets that are made when he is on the floor, it doesnt translate to the Lakers being better offensively. He is too limited offensively and defenses just dont guard him the way they would guard a player that is actually a threat. Less attention on him means they bother the other 4 on the floor, affecting their effectiveness.

            He’s not a player that you want in your rotation if you are hoping to be a championship contending team. I believe once D’Antoni is gone, Marshall will soon follow him out the door. The Lakers will continue to be horrible if this guy is getting significant minutes.

  • J Taylor

    Those who thought Marshall would be the starting PG solution in 2014 are proven wrong with the above statistics.But, add Lowry, and the two make for a very well rounded PG solution. Lowry excels in scoring and defense, whereas, Marshall is a great passer…..

    • Fern Rea

      I think many fans are getting enamored with Marshall because
      of the assists numbers he is putting up, which is great and impressive, but
      there are many other areas of the game. If you are too weak in those other
      areas and it hurts the team more than you’re helping it you become a liability and
      wont be able to play in this league. I have a lot of questions about Marshall
      overall. I see a lot of weaknesses and it probably best we temper some of the enthusiasm
      that is out there for Marshall at least until we see some significant improvements in these other areas.

  • Marty Susman

    You can get stat’s to say just about anything you want, hell I was standing on a corner yesterday waving my arm’s & guess what, no meteorite crashed into the earth, so I must have chased it away. Marshall is a great offensive player/floor general & needs playing time to “LEARN” how to play on defense. (Ah we traded for a once great offensive floor general except he was a crippled & Nash was “NEVER” any good at defense) Marshall needs to play & learn…

  • Marty Susman

    As for the defense, it is really really simple… A team needs to play TOGETHER but when together means a different 5 on the floor 10 times a game & it is different every game how in the hell will the players learn about each others game ??? The problem in defense is the coach not playing the same players together so they can learn about each other….All the chatter is great but the facts are pretty simple, put 5 guys together, they play together, they learn about each others moves, they know where each player will be & so on….. Soooooo, DUMP this coach, hire Byron Scott with Rambus, D. Fish & Jabbar as asst. & teach the kids how to play together…

    • Fern Rea

      Dump D’Antoni? That has a nice ring to it.

  • hookedonnews

    Just from a fan’s perspective watching games, I would say that blaming Marshall for the poor defensive performance of this team is a stretch. While he’s not a great defender, the name of the game is team defense. He’ll probably improve in time, but not really buying him as the primary problem. The fact that he rarely turns the ball over helps the defense because it eliminates some of the points off turnovers. His efficiency in running the offense is needed more than his defense because he’s the only true PG healthy right now.

    • Fern Rea

      The piece wasnt to put blame of the team’s poor defense on Marshall. Team’s defense has been bad all year, well before Marshall got here. I am pointing to him as to why it’s gotten significantly worse since he started getting significant minutes. it went from bad, then terribly bad right when he took over. I put the numbers above of Pre-Marshall and after, and the numbers how a sharp decline in their overall defensive numbers at the exact time that Marshall started getting major minutes. If it was a slight change it’s not worth mentioning but its a vast change. There’s been other changes as well but he was the main one. How much he is to blame is hard to pinpoint, but at the very least you have to say he is factor. He is definitely not helping things on that side of the ball.

      • hookedonnews

        I understand the numbers. I was just telling you what I see when I watch the games. I agree that he’s not helping the defense, although he seems to pick up a lot of loose balls and rebound pretty well. I’m just skeptical of the idea that his poor defense is making that big a difference. It’s not impossible that he’s the problem. Just saying it’s not that obvious when you’re watching the games. Once some of our injured players get back on the court those numbers should improve. Even with the limited roster and the defensive problems, we’ve been competitive in most of the games we’ve lost.

        • Fern Rea

          That’s fair.

          Its true, Its not like the defenses are attacking Marshall
          everytime down the floor, but they must be exposing him enough throughout all
          these games, incrementally, and doing it with more success than they were doing
          it before he took over.

          I agree also that Its hard to pin blame on 1 player on the defensive
          side, especially a guard. Too many moving parts on the defensive end. There is
          no smoking gun in this argument; merely a theory with some supporting data.