Shawn Marion is a wonderful player. He does many things in the "unsung hero" category. He hustles, rebounds, boxes out, defends the opposing team's best player, he rotates the ball fairly well and he flashes into the lane to create scoring opportunities.
He provides Dallas with so much and was an integral part to the Mavericks 2011 championship, that it's easy to somewhat dismiss his negatives. There's a big one – perimeter shooting.
That's where Vince Carter checks in. Carter's range from beyond the arc and presence in the starting lineup as the three has given Dallas a boost in two wins against San Antonio and Denver. Carter is averaging 12 points per game and shooting 53 percent in the past two Dallas victories.
He's getting good looks, pure and simple. And his ability to hit those open looks has given Dirk Nowitzki either more space to operate or another option to kick the ball out when facing multiple defenders. The floor has opened up for Jason Terry as well, as he received plenty of open shots down the stretch against the Spurs as San Antonio wasn't sure where to recover when doubling Dirk.
Carter's skills in crunch time weren't needed in the blowout of Denver on Monday, but Dallas was scorching throughout the first quarter, thanks to Carter being able to make the Nuggets pay when cheating toward Dirk.
But let's not forget another occurrence while Carter has been the starting small forward: the emergence of Rodrigue Beaubois. When Carter normally started, it was with Kidd and Marion flanking him on the perimeter. That lineup features no attackers aside from Carter himself and Dirk. Marion can qualify but Marion typically looks to score when driving toward the rim. He's a capable runner of the pick and roll with Dirk but as a standalone drive and distributor, he falls a little flat.
With Beaubois in the lineup, that presents a guard to drive and kick – mainly kicking to Carter. Carter has been able to spot up in the corners during a Beaubois/Dirk pick and roll in the opening minutes of games and being the weak side threat for Beaubois or Dirk to find after completing the play.
It won't last. Marion could be healthy in time to play against the Lakers this week, forcing Carter back to the starting two guard or to the bench in favor of Beaubois. But the Kidd-Beaubois-Carter-Dirk-Center lineup has proved to be more than effective in starting out games. Hopefully Rick Carlisle will integrate the lineup even after the team gets healthy.