He was the team's best perimeter defender in last year's championship run, helping neutralize (or at least get in the way sometimes) of Kevin Durant, completely broke LeBron James and was wonderful on giving Jason Kidd a breather against Russell Westbrook or Dwyane Wade. This season, he's been asked to guard everyone from Durant to Chris Paul and helped keep those players under their normal averages.
After Marion limited Chris Paul to just 10 shot attempts and little impact in the Mavericks 96-92 win over the Clippers on Monday, Mark Cuban gushed about Marion's contributions to everyone and anyone. Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas has the details:
Cuban can’t believe small forward Shawn Marion, the swiss-army knife of the Dallas Mavericks’ defense, has never earned all-defense team recognition and is determined to do everything within his power to end that streak in the Matrix’s 13th NBA season.
Actually, Cuban won’t be satisfied unless Marion gets serious consideration as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
"It’s not a question if he’s first team," Cuban said during his pregame stairmaster workout Monday evening. "The only question is, outside of the center position like a Dwight Howard, is he Defensive Player of the Year? I mean, it’s hard to overlook how Dwight Howard plays defensively, but beyond that, who’s better?
MacMahon also went on to note that in the final 5:13 of the game on Monday, Paul only had one bucket, the crazy, fading three-pointer, and one assist. Point is, Marion's pretty wonderful and we can all agree on that. But some funky things come up when trying to match the eye-test with the stat test.
First off, it proves that Shawn Marion can lock down his man. According to 82games.com, Marion holds his counter at the small-forward position to a 44 effective field goal percentage and just a 13.5 PER – an average player is considered a 15 PER. That's pretty great, right? But then I scrolled down a bit and found something that shocked me.
Marion has played 871 minutes. At 82games, they only have him tracked so far for the 578 he's on the court, and the team is a -1.6 net points per 100 possessions (offense: 101.1, defense: 102.8). That doesn't really sound any alarms too much. The Mavericks have been fairly inconsistent this year despite their 18-11 record and Marion plays a lot of minutes. But for the 381 minutes Marion is on the bench (which is also slightly outdated), the team's net points per 100 possessions is +11.8. That's pretty huge. And what's even more strange is the result isn't because the defense stays the same and the offense just gets better – the offense stays relatively the same (104.2 points per 100 possessions) but the defense gets significantly better (92.3 points per 100 possessions).
The stats in clutch time (Fourth quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left, neither team ahead by more than five points) also have Dallas at a -11 net points per 100 possessions, but mainly that's been due to the Mavericks proficiency in getting absolutely burned by great buzzer-beaters this year. (But still somewhat surprising.)
It's extremely odd to see that. Perhaps this is what Cuban means when throwing advanced stats out the window for this season: the schedule is packed, team's are tired and players are getting less rest between games and less practice than ever before. Also, the minute differential is pretty substantial as well, so we can also chalk this up to smaller sample size AND being in a weird season.
Also, when Marion goes to the bench, that usually means that it's time for the second-units to go head-to-head. Dallas second-unit is leaps and bounds more talented than other team's bench, which probably alters the stats as well. When the Mavericks go to the bench they bring in Delonte West, Ian Mahinmi and Brandan Wright...pretty wonderful defenders to bring in as your second unit.
So I wouldn't fret too much. 82games still hasn't completely updated to the current minute total and Marion still deserves all the praise and is very much in the running for any accolades on the defensive end once the season ends. He's still the Mavericks best perimeter defender and still the guy I want on Durant or James with the clock running down. (As the picture I chose for this post clearly shows.)