The New Orleans Pelicans can’t afford to lose Naji Marshall in free agency

Naji Marshall, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Naji Marshall, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

According to Spotrac’s free agency tracker, the New Orleans Pelicans have a club option (worth roughly 1.9 million) that they can use to retain Naji Marshall’s services for the 2023-24 NBA Season. They better exercise that option.

Why, you ask? Look no further than Miami Heat forward Caleb Martin.

If you somehow missed it, the Heat are just one game away from completing an improbable run to the NBA Finals, and Martin’s performance during the postseason has been a big reason why.

Martin is the perfect role player to have on your team in the playoffs. He can shoot the three ball, but he can also put the ball on the floor and drive closeouts. He can defend multiple positions while also wreaking havoc off the ball. And from time to time, you can put the ball in his hands and let him create some offense on his own. Players like him tend to do very well in the playoffs.

Marshall is one of those players. Like Martin (who also went undrafted), Marshall is a versatile role player. He can space the floor – he shot a passable 32.1% on catch-and-shoot threes this season (per

But he doesn’t need to just stand around and chuck up shots. He can also aggressively attack closeouts (like we mentioned with Martin).

He’s also a good passer. He posted a Passer Rating (a 1-10 rating created by Ben Taylor that measures a player’s passing ability) of 6.1, which was fourth among all Pelicans (trailing only Dyson Daniels, Brandon Ingram, and CJ McCollum).  And he’s a reliable tertiary ball handler. The Pelicans consistently trusted him with some pick-and-roll duties, as he averaged 1.4 pick-and-roll ball handler possessions per game (per

On defense, he was a prominent part of New Orleans’ cavalcade of switchable wings/forwards. The website Dunks & Threes’ Defensive Estimated Plus-Minus (one of the best publicly available one-number metrics out there) places him in the 78th percentile on that side of the ball overall.

As for his on-ball defense, according to Basketball Index data, he’s in the 95th percentile in Defensive Positional Versatility and the 93rd percentile in Matchup Difficulty.

The Pelicans were sixth in opponent turnover percentage, and Marshall’s ferocious defensive activity in his minutes played an important role in that. He’s in the 64th percentile in deflections per 36 minutes (2.2) among forwards who played at least 25 games on the season. Deflections are a strong indicator of defensive activity, and defensive activity is what leads to turnover creation.

He may not be exactly as good as Martin, but he’s crafted in the same mold of player. And that type of player is highly important to teams with deep playoff aspirations, which is exactly the kind of team the Pelicans should hope to be next season.

So yeah, make sure you keep him, New Orleans.

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