It's my instinctual reaction when Shawn Marion lines up a three pointer to chuck it at the net. It doesn't matter that the man has made more than 700 in his career -- everything about his two-handed quirky spinning shotput, looking like he's teetering over a cliff about his lose his balance, scares the stuffing out me.
But maybe it's time to reconsider. Not only did the Matrix nail the game-winning three pointer from the left corner with 47 seconds to play, but he did it without hesitation. Sometimes, teams leave Shawn Marion SO open that he has no choice to take it. Not on that shot. Swish.
Let's break it down, with a hat tip to the great people at MySynergySports.com for all the screengrabs in this article (click on any for a larger size!):
Considering Monta and Dirk had 72 combined points at this point, what else would you run down by a point with under a minute to play but a pick-and-roll for the two of them? The Rockets are trying to hide James Harden on Shawn Marion, who you see is set up in the corner this whole time. But Terrence Jones (guarding Dirk) makes a mistake. Houston is switching on all pick-and-rolls at this point, so without the pressure to hedge on the pick, Jones thinks it's okay to sit at the free throw line and use his length to cover the space and contest if Monta decides to pull-up.
But c'mon Terrence, what do you think is going to happen if you let Ellis gather speed while you're at a dead stop. Look how easily Monta blows by him. But it's not over quite yet -- Dwight Howard is in position to contest the shot and, although he's no longer a superhuman force, he's still a very good defender.
Three things to point out. First, Chandler Parsons can't help or he would leave Calderon wide open in the corner. Spacing! Second, it looked like Monta would be able to drop the ball drop to Samuel Dalembert after getting Dwight in the air. But third, you see that Harden is sliding down to defend that drop-off pass.
Instead, Monta makes a hell of a pass, a bullet straight to the corner with one hand into the figners of an open Marion. But WAIT -- this isn't a forced shot, as there's 13 seconds on the shot clock. Pump fake a take a dribble, and Dirk can easily establish position at the elbow with a huge mismatch of Patrick Beverley defending him. Alternatively, quick ball movement could result in a corner three on the other side for Jose Calderon (if the ball rotates to Dirk, Parsons is the most likely player to rotate up for a double team).
But there's no hesitation from the Matrix. Here's the play in full:
There are some things in this universe that can't be explained: why women go for douchebags, why traffic is always the worst when you're in a hurry, and (you know where this is going) Shawn Marion's shot release.
The shot itself isn't the weird part -- trust me, spend some time at the local basketball court and you'll see shot releases as bad or worse. But the combination of A) Marion using this release and reaching the NBA anyways and B) having a stretch of years where he was a knock-down three point shooter is the truly remarkable part.
From 2001-02 (his third year in the league) to 2006-07 (his final year in Phoenix), Marion shot 569 of 1634 from behind the three point line -- good for a shooting percentage of 34.8%. His career-highs topped out at 141 made triples in 2002-03, and a 39.3% knock-down rate the year prior in 2001-02.
(To put that six-year stretch in perspective, in Dirk's last six seasons (2007-2013), he's shot 400 of 1048. Better percentage, much lower volume.)
I did some research to see if anyone knew where Shawn Marion's shot habits had come from. The answer is, apparently, no. The shot was already alive and well when he played two years at Vincennes University, a junior college in Indiana, according to this New York Times article.
He would transfer to UNLV for his final two years, and then was picked ninth in the 1999 NBA Draft. Everywhere he went, coaches believed the same motto of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
I wonder if Marion could have got away with that now, in an era where basketball development is a science and advanced stats have taken control. And I also wonder just how great the Matrix could have been with a league average jump shot and ridiculous athleticism. But regardless, Marion was never asked to reinvent his shot and it's probably the most defining skill of his career, for better or for worse.
(photo by Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)
After leaving Phoenix, Marion's jump shot fell out of favor. Maybe it was the trades and a failure to adjust to his new setting. Maybe his new coaching staff discouraged him from its usage, something the uber-tempo-run-the-ball-down-your-damn-throat Mike D'Antoni coaching staff never dreamed of.
His first year in Dallas, he took a career-low 21 three point attempts, a number even lower than his rookie season that he played just 51 games in. He made just three of them, also a career low. And it looked like the era of the Matrix sharpshooting behind the line was all but over. He shot a combined 27.6% over his next three seasons in limited attempts, only providing further evidence of that.
But something weird happened this year.
Don't look now, but Marion's taken 23 attempts behind the line (already more than his first season in Dallas) and made 11 of them (already more than he made in his first two seasons in Dallas) at a 47.8% clip. He's reestablished the shot as a weapon, as we saw in Houston on Wednesday night. More importantly, he's confident.
"If I get open looks, I'm going to knock them down," Marion said after the Rockets game. "There was a point in my career where I stopped shooting them; it's always been there. When I came here I really didn't have to do that."
Unsurprisingly, Marion's nailed 7 of 12 of those three pointers from the corners -- something that could become huge to the Mavericks offense if he's able to continue this efficient shooting.
"It's just a matter of getting them up," Marion said. "You can only make them if you shoot them."
But just how has this new threat helped the Mavericks? Let's take a look (again, all pictures courtesy of MySynergySports).
Monta has the ball and is doubled with Marion's man coming down to help.
It's hard to get that wide open in the NBA. Granted, I'm still not particular pleased about the idea of Shawn Marion taking a ton of above-the-break threes. Of course, maybe he'll just keep proving me wrong, but I feel like his real value this year is as a corner sharpshooter. We already know he has the defense -- could he be the player that turns into a 3-and-D guy for the Mavericks?
Here's Marion even more wide open from the corner. Notice three Orlando defenders in the paint...Monta had just driven baseline, making a smart pass instead of trying to finish in a crowd.
And again! W-i-d-e open. The player circled is Caron Butler, who was actually guarding him on this play. In Tuff Juice's defense, Shawn Marion made five three pointers for the entire season in 2010-11, when Butler was a Maverick. On this play, he totally leaves his man to help on defense and Shawn makes him pay (he drains this shot).
Do you think teams have taken notice? Yeah. I think they have.
In the Mavericks most recent game against Houston, notice how tight Terrence Jones is guarding Marion in the corner. The Mavericks space the floor with Vince Carter on the right wing and Jose Calderon in the left corner and bring DeJuan Blair up to set a pick, which drags Dwight Howard up with him. The result: the paint is wide open, and Ellis just has to beat his defender.
It's James Harden, so you know what's going to happen.
Dunk that, Monta.
As for you, Shawn Marion, I've always loved you as a Maverick no matter how many three pointers you made a season. But if we can welcome that corkscrewed shotput back to the land of NBA relevance, I'm going to love you even more.
More from Mavs Moneyball:
- Rick Carlisle impersonates Gregg Popovich during an in-game interview
- MMB Gameday Stream: Utah Jazz at Dallas Mavericks
- MMB Roundtable: Dirk and Monta bury Houston in the fourth quarter
- What Monta brings to the Dallas Mavericks
- Quoteboard: The Mavericks make a statement in comeback win against Houston