As Co-Editor Zak Kolesar wrote earlier, Shawn Marion was in town yesterday to meet with the Cleveland Cavaliers about possibly signing with the team. Now, I have to admit that I am a big fan of Marion and his game. I thought that he was just as big of a part of the success of the “Seven Seconds or Less” Phoenix Suns as Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire, and I believe he should get real consideration for the Basketball Hall of Fame when his playing days are over. While his decline from superstar to important role player was somewhat bumpy, and his time with the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors was somewhat underwhelming, by the time Shawn Marion joined the Dallas Mavericks he had adjusted to life as the team’s top perimeter defender who used his rebounding and athleticism to affect the game on both ends of the floor. Indeed, Shawn Marion’s defense on LeBron James during the 2011 NBA Finals was one of the biggest reasons the Mavericks won the championship. After the departure of Tyson Chandler, Marion became even more important to the Mavericks, as he was both their best perimeter and interior defender. Now, with the Mavericks having moved on to Chandler Parsons at the small forward position and free agency mostly settled, Shawn Marion is looking for a team that can give him a chance to win another ring, and the Cavaliers are interested in the forward’s services.
So what does Shawn Marion bring to the Cavaliers that could bring them closer to a championship? Well, first there is his defense. As stated above Marion was the best perimeter defender on a Mavericks team that won a title in 2011 and was the only team to push the San Antonio Spurs to seven games in this year’s playoffs. While the Mavericks surprisingly gave up more points per 100 possessions with Marion on the floor than off it last season, that has more to do with who Shawn Marion was guarding than anything else, as he was often tasked with guarding the opposition’s best player. The rare tweener forward who can guard both threes and fours, Shawn Marion is also capable of effectively defending many guards and centers due to his combination of length and athleticism. One of the concerns many Cavalier fans have with trading Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love is that LeBron James would always have to guard the opposition’s best perimeter player.With the addition of Marion, that is no longer true. While Shawn Marion will probably see a lot of his minutes backing up James, the two should be dynamic both on defense and in transition when playing together. While he is no longer the All-Star he used to be, Marion is still a solid offensive player and strong finisher around the basket. He is also a good enough shooter to provide some spacing for James and Irving, despite one of the funkiest looking shots in the game.
Shawn Marion’s potential addition affects many other Cavaliers as well. If Marion sees some time behind Kevin Love at the small forward position, what becomes of Tristan Thompson? It’s hard to imagine Thompson going from a player who has started every game over the past two years to one who rarely gets off the bench. Considering the Cavaliers’ need for a center and the lack of big men on the market, it’s far more likely that Thompson splits time backing up the power forward and center positions. While Thompson is undersized and more of a hustle player than a shot blocker on defense, there are some reasons to think this could work. First off, Thompson is an elite rebounder despite his size, with an offensive game that is more like that of a center than a power forward in today’s NBA. Second, Thompson was an elite shot-blocker in college, and David Blatt may try to help Thompson renew his strength in this area. Furthermore, Shawn Marion and Thompson could probably provide at least adequate interior defense together as Marion had to often serve as a rim protector in Phoenix, and Thompson makes up for his aging by simply being a better defender than Stoudemire ever was. Finally, Thompson is simply a better (and healthier) player than any other big man left on the market. Marion’s addition would also reduce Mike Miller’s playing time both at small forward and is overall a plus considering Miller’s injury history and would move James Jones to a situational shooter, a role in which he has had much success.
The signing of Shawn Marion could be one of the most underrated, yet impactful, moves of an offseason that has already gone beyond any Cavalier fan’s wildest dreams. Hopefully he will be joining the Wine and Gold on their quest to bring the city of Cleveland its first championship since 1964.