What next Shawn Marion?
Considering what Shawn Marion has been to the Mavericks the last couple of years and his contributions in comparison to Brendan Haywood, it’s amazing that his name ever came up along with the subject of amnesty. Fortunately the Mavs did the wise thing and exercised those rights on Haywood, so he’s gone to the Charlotte Bobcats and Marion is surrounded with a team devoid of any remaining players from the championship squad only two years ago, save for Dirk Nowitzki. In a year that will likely look much different for Dallas fans, what exact role Marion will play is unclear; but the good news is he’s available to do just about anything.
In a period of time starting with a gut-wrenching disassembly of the championship team, followed by a season of injuries and head-scratching underachievement and ending an off season which started by dashing everyone’s hopes about landing a top-tier point guard, a new crop of free agents will be joining the team giving fans hope of a much brighter immediate picture. In addition, Dallas, a team not typically known for building through the draft, landed three potentially fantastic rookies.
So there hasn’t been a lot of analysis about Shawn Marion, now a wily old veteran and with the longest tenure of any Maverick save Dirk at three whole years. With badly needed scoring punch, rebounding and defense added at nearly every position, where does the Matrix fit in?
In Phoenix, Marion spent nearly his entire tenure hovering around the elite 20/10 mark of most All-Star level players, making him one of the most effective forwards in the NBA. In the high-octane Suns offense, he was part of one of the original “Big Threes” along with Steve Nash and Amare’ Stoudemire but the team lacked enough additional balance to ever make it to the NBA finals.
Upon arriving in Dallas he has played fewer minutes and his stats have declined somewhat but he’s taken on an entirely different role. No longer called upon as a primary offensive threat, he’s nevertheless managed to make the most of every opportunity with unexpected slashing moves to the basket and score in double figures as well as being at or near the top of the team’s rebounding leaders.
But Trix quietly took on a new role which has been even more important for the Mavericks, especially after the departure of Tyson Chandler and DeShawn Stephenson, that of the defensive stopper. Long admired for his athleticism and versatility, he has been compared to Scottie Pippen his entire career but only started to receive real accolades for his defense last year. After spending the year often assigned to guard the opposing teams best offensive players, Mavs observers were more than disappointed when Marion was left off the All-Defensive team and instead, were handed the reality of Tyson Chandler being named Defensive Player of the Year.
Yet defense shouldn’t come as news to anyone. While his offense and rebounding have always been superior, in his one season as a UNLV Runnin’ Rebel, Marion earned Western Athletic Conference Mountain Division First Team, All-Newcomer and All-Defensive Team honors while averaging 18.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 1.9 blocks in 29 games. Playing both ends of the floor is nothing new for the Matrix.
With the various newcomers at nearly every position, Rick Carlisle’s plan for Marion is unclear. With less scoring out of the post and point guard positions last year, Marion might have been called on to score more but he wasn’t and probably to the team’s detriment. Next year the entire starting five has been upgraded in terms of offense as has the bench, with the possible exception of losing Jason Terry, although Vince Carter is more than capable of covering for Terry if asked.
In the new Mavs scheme, Dirk is not likely to no longer be the primary option but Rick Carlisle has been clear that the team needs to transition to Dirk’s being the second-best player. While that time may not have arrived, O. J. Mayo can get close if he returns to rookie form and Chris Kaman, Darren Collison and Elton Brand will provide more scoring than their predecessors.
Even if plays are not run for Marion, he has continued to be a solid contributor by grabbing boards and cutting to the basket; he even tosses in an occasional three pointer. While there will be more scorers on the team next year he will also be able to use his athleticism to take advantage of the double-coverage Dirk and Mayo may draw. But that doesn’t really indicate his full value to this team.
At a time when the Mavericks could literally have been in a defensive free fall after losing Chandler and Stevenson followed by Delonte West missing much of the season with a finger injury, Marion spearheaded an effort that otherwise would have been totally lost. With the entire starting five and the bench also upgraded defensively, most notably Elton Brand and Dahntay Jones, there will be more blocks and steals creating opportunities for him to score on the break. In addition, Rick Carlisle will have a lot more latitude in making defensive assignments.
With a revamped roster of wily veterans and high-octane rookies, this next year promises to be interesting and different. Chances are for the Matrix, it may be very much the same—and that’s just fine by me.