I don't remember where I was in 2009 when the four team deal landed Shawn Marion in Dallas, but I do remember my first thought: "Holy sh*t." For years, the Matrix had been one of the best Dirk defenders in the NBA and I had no idea how he was going to fit with Dallas. Five years later, I don't know what we would've done without him.
Shawn Marion has been a rock in his time in Dallas, playing around 32 minutes and averaging between 10 and 12 points and 6 to nearly 8 rebounds per game. The former 20 point, 10 rebound All-Star re-invented his offensive game, filling the gaps between offensive stalwarts like Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Monta Ellis, and Jose Calderon with run outs, put backs and sneaky cuts. Defensively, Marion matched up night in and out with the opposing team's best player: in the 2011 title run, he limited Brandan Roy, shut down Kobe Bryant, frustrated Kevin Durant, and held LeBron James to his career playoff series low. That he never made an All-Defense team is a crime.
Years from now, it's going to be a challenge to explain just how important and effective the Matrix was in his time in Dallas, particularly because his entire career as a Maverick came after his athletic prime. As recently as last season, at age 34, Marion posted a PER of 18.0, as the team leaned on his leadership and system understanding during a transition year.
This past season, though, was perhaps his worst as a pro. He posted a career low 13.4, struggled with consistency on offense despite a loaded team, and really struggled defensively at times. It's unclear whether these dips were due to a decline in his abilities or if Dallas simply leaned too hard on their Swiss Army knife.
Of the various off-season decisions to make, Marion is easily the hardest. Other than Dirk, he's the final remaining player from the 2011 title team. By all indications he's more than willing to remain a Maverick, citing the chance at winning a championship as being far more important than money. But is Dallas actually competing for a championship?
Judging the make up of the current roster (so, excluding all non-Dirk free agents), it's unclear where Marion fits. He was vital last season as a defensive stopper (despite his decline), but his inconsistent offense meant he was usually off the floor in crunch time in favor of Vince Carter. His occasional presence as power forward hopefully woke the front office up to the need for a true backup to Dirk.
A youth movement at small forward is likely (it kills me that the corpse of Luol Deng is considered youth, but Marion and Vince Carter are a combined 73 years old) so the more I focus on it, the less likely it seems that Marion remains in Dallas. It's awful to write because he, like Jason Kidd and Terry before him, an important part of Mavericks history. I'd like to see him retire in Dallas and I'd love to see his jersey hoisted into the rafters one day. There's of course still a decent chance he'll be in a Maverick uniform next season, but it may very well be time for parties to move on amicably.
- Potential deal: 2 years, $4-6 million
- Chances he remains a Maverick: 35%
The Matrix, along with Monta Ellis, showed off his bartending skills at a fan event earlier this season. Rebecca Lawson went to get the details.
Hal Brown broke down the Dallas defense earlier in the season, looking at, among other things, Marion's role on this year's team.