The Los Angeles Clippers should find Shawn Marion, and they should consider doing a deal.
One of the Clippers’ prospective needs this offseason is an upgrade at small forward. Matt Barnes isn’t necessarily the problem – Los Angeles is fortunate that he was able to be a regular starter for the first time since 2010 this past season. The issue was that he wasn’t supposed to be the starter: Jared Dudley had the worst year of his career, Hedo Turkoglu was eventually needed at power forward, and Danny Granger came to L.A. and predictably never played a significant role, failing to play 25 minutes in a game as a Clipper.
The Clippers chose to address the backcourt in the draft, and center Spencer Hawes has headlined the free agent acquisitions. There was some dot-connecting, with head coach Doc Rivers possibly re-uniting with former Celtic Paul Pierce. After spending the 2013-2014 season with the Brooklyn Nets, Pierce was a free agent. But instead of coming back to the west side, Pierce signed a deal with the Washington Wizards.
Marion, an unrestricted free agent with over 42,000 minutes on his NBA odometer, is without a squad after five season with the Dallas Mavericks.
Now, Marion wants to get paid, though he has said that he’s “made a lot of money in my career,” after earning $9.3 million in 2013-14. No one will be paying Marion that kind of coin, but the Clippers aren’t in position to get him without a serious paycut anyway. With the Mavericks still holding Marion’s Bird Rights, a sign-and-trade is on the table. Whether it’s cash flow or players, should the Clippers try and go after The Matrix?
There are reasons why they shouldn’t:
• As mentioned earlier, Marion’s been a starter every season – the one year he didn’t start half of the regular season was 2010-2011. That postseason, Marion started all 21 games as the Mavericks won the 2011 championship. (And the Mavericks don’t win that title without Marion on the roster.) That’s a lot of mileage, especially for a player who has been banging bodies with players much bigger as a small-ball big man.
• Marion’s prowess as a scorer is fading sharply, as he attempted only 65 free throws this past season, a career-low. His 10.4 points per game were the lowest he’s averaged since his rookie season. (11.8 points per 36 minutes were a career-low.)
• A famously great offensive rebounder, Marion averaged a career-low 1.7 per game this past season (2.0/per-36 minutes). He’s never been very involved in terms of ball-movement (1.9 career assists per game). He’s no one’s idea of an ideal shooter.
• While Marion is still solid defensively and well-respected on that end of the floor, he just turned 36 years old, dangerous territory for perimeter defenders.
• And, perhaps most damning, he wasn’t much of a factor in the playoffs besides his 20-point performance in Game 2, as his minutes were cut in favor of Vince Carter.
But then there are the reasons the Clippers should be interested:
• For one, if you’re interested in Paul Pierce (who is 37 in October and has played 47,000-plus NBA minutes), why not Marion? Pierce has always been more useful offensively, but the Clippers were the best offensive team in the league this past season. They just added an injury-prone three-point shooting center and an injury-prone three-point shooting point guard to their roster – it’s not a bad thing to consider adding a player who won’t get in the way of the offense.
• Marion still runs the floor, crashes the offensive glass, and moves without the ball very well for a veteran small forward – he also doesn’t kill a team’s field goal percentage. I like dunks, and while Marion’s athleticism isn’t what it was when he was an All-Star, he still had 62 dunks in 2013-2014. By comparison, Barnes, Turkoglu, Granger, and Dudley combined for 24 dunks, with Dudley failing to get one.
• The Clippers were a bottom-five defensive rebounding team, a major problem. While DeAndre Jordan led the league in total defensive rebounds and rebounds per game, and Blake Griffin backed him up with 9.5 rebounds per 36 minutes, the Clippers failed to get consistent rebounding from the small forward position or the bench. Overall, the Clippers were a bottom-five team in terms of defensive rebounding percentage. Barnes is a decent rebounder, but he would be a valuable bench piece for rebounds. Dudley may have been the worst rebounding starter at small forward of all time (2.2 per game). Marion is still a top-ten rebounder at his position and would help shore up a big weakness.
• While Marion isn’t a great playmaker, he’s a smart player who avoids turnovers (1.4 turnovers per 36 minutes last year). His activity and intelligence defensively would be just what Rivers needs to improve the team.
• And while Marion isn’t a picture-perfect shooter, he spent more time behind the arc than in recent years, hitting 58-of-162 (36 percent). From 2008 through 2013, he made only 61-of-246 (25 percent), averaging fewer than one attempt per game in that time. Plus, Marion is a career 81 percent free throw shooter.
In addition to all of that, Marion has taken good care of his body, missing only 46 games since turning 30 – that’s an average of 7.6 missed games per season since 2008. There aren’t many “championship contending” teams left for Marion to consider either. The other division winners either have top options at small forward or are out of roster spots to give. And Chicago, Marion’s hometown option, may have a glut of core players on the wing already.
If Marion wants to compete for a championship, play for a championship-caliber head coach, get easy buckets offensively, and fill a starter’s role, Los Angeles should be where he can spend at least the 2014-2015 season. Yes, it would require the Clippers giving up someone valuable (Jamal Crawford? Matt Barnes? Reggie Bullock?), and yes, this is basically the Matrix in his twilight, like Scottie Pippen in Portland. But I believe Marion has more to give before he retires, and though it’s a long shot, he would be a solid addition to the Clippers in an offseason that has been clouded by ownership issues.