Epic picture is epic. (Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images)
There are four players left from the Dallas Mavericks championship squad two seasons ago. One is Dirk, who still doesn't quite get the credit he deserves, but for the most part is nationally acclaimed as one of the greatest players in NBA history and the big man who revolutionized the game with his shooting. Then there's a couple of guards with frustrating potential, Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones, who both have been talked about in depth, as much for their failures than for their success. And then Shawn Marion.
He's the forgotten one of the bunch. It's not that people forget who he is or that he's still on the Mavericks, but they forget what he can do and how important he still is to this team. Sometimes, with all the new acquisitions on the team, it just kinda seems like he's the one who stuck, because there was nothing else to do with him. That is not the case at all.
People can argue for Elton Brand, but as of right now, Chris Kaman is the likely choice to close games out next to Dirk on a majority of nights. It's hard to explain just how excited I am to see how well Dirk pairs up with the best offensive center he has ever had a chance to play next to in the NBA. Over the years, the man has had Bradley, Dampier, Diop, and Haywood manning the spot. The next time any of them complete a successful post move might just be the first time. Chris Kaman is a completely different player, both fluid and consistent and able to destroy a team given the right looks in the paint.
Unfortunately, inseparable from the offensive talent is Kaman's defensive issues. He's not a horrid defender, but he's average at best. Pair that with Dirk, and while the offensive talent of those two is off the charts, the defense is...how do I put this nicely...lacking.
The solution is simple enough: play good perimeter defense, limit the opportunities that Dirk and Kaman have to help off their man, and while it may not always look pretty, it might just work. If only the Mavericks had a Defensive Player of the Year finalist hanging around somewhere...
It's still a real travesty that Shawn Marion ranked just 8th in this year's Defensive Player of the Year voting. But by golly, I'll count that as a finalist. When the 3D talk was still in full effect, I remember people casually mentioning we'd have to dump Marion to make room for Dwight and Deron. Of course, it was all speculation and in that scenario, I think adding two All-Stars would make up for the loss of Shawn. But back in the real world, where the Mavericks aren't getting Deron Williams and have only a decent shot at Dwight Howard, Marion isn't a player that you dump on whoever will take him. He's been one of the most valuable Mavericks over the past couple of years, and this year will be counted on more than ever to provide stout perimeter defense to prevent Dirk and Kaman from being overexposed. There are other -- Elton Brand, Jae Crowder, the athletic OJ Mayo -- that will be expected to be tough defensive presences. But Marion, the veteran on this team and a world champion, needs to be the leader of this defense.
What better way to lead than by example?