Lakers Defense Has Plummeted Since Kendall Marshall’s Insertion


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

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

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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