The Portland Trail Blazers don’t have much room to work with as far as cap space or roster space goes, but they do have the mid-level exception (slated at $5.3 million) and the bi-annual exception ($2.08 million) as weapons this offseason. Neil Olshey & Co. have to be very strategic in how these benefits are used, because barring a trade they are their only means to add more talent to their ascending franchise. The Blazers’ draft picks have both been traded this year, so they will not be adding any young talent, however they have plenty of young talent already and need a versatile veteran instead.
Enter Shawn Marion.
Marion has played 14 seasons in the NBA and is still one of the most versatile players — on both ends of the court — even given his “old” age of 36. His numbers this year weren’t overly impressive until you weigh in the fact that he is 36, still played 76 games and averaged 30+ minutes a night — again pretty impressive.
Marion averaged 10.4 points (only his rookie season was lower), 6.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.2 steals per contest. He appeared, and started, in 76 games and finished with shooting splits of .482/.358/.785. His efficiency is certainly something to behold and shows that even given less opportunity, he can still contribute at a very high level for his club.
Even given his success in this 14th season, there were some lows that need to be looked at and could be concerning when considering how much can be given to a player of Marion’s stature and caliber. Marion had a career low in usage rate (15.7), PER (13.7), total rebound percentage (11.9) and his defensive rating was the lowest it’s ever been at 108. One other glaring discrepancy was Shawn’s ability, or lack thereof, to draw fouls and finish around the rim. Marion only had 22 and-1s this season, which is by far the lowest in his career — his career high for comparison is 132 for one season!
Does Portland even have a chance of luring him away from the Dallas Mavericks? I think Marion has shown in his comments that he is open to other options, as well as taking less money at this time in his career. Here’s what he had to say to Mavs.com regarding free agency.
“You know, it’s not about money right now. I’ve made a lot of money in my career and I’ve been truly blessed. You know, I take none of this for granted, and I think I’ve just got to weigh my options. We’re going to see what’s out there and what’s available, and I’ve just got to weigh it out. I’m going to put it in God’s hands.”
So, the option is there for Marion to be had — given the right situation.
Why would the Blazers want an aging player like Marion? For starters, he’s an NBA champion and knows what it takes to get there and finish on top. Portland has a ton of talent, but all of these guys are young and they just got their first taste of NBA playoff success with the first round victory over the Houston Rockets this season. The front office can’t afford to let that momentum falter and Marion would bring an air of professionalism and experience to this roster.
The other thing that Marion really brings to the table is versatility. Marion has shown in the past that he can guard positions 1-4 with viability; he has guarded the power forward position much less as his career has gone on but the fact remains that he can guard three positions on the court at any given time. He doesn’t fit the mold of the other players on the Blazers, who can all knock down the 3-ball with great regularity but he has shown that he can slash to the basket with success and can even knock down the deep shot if left alone (though it’s ugly as sin!) — he had 58 made 3-pointers which was the most since 2007-08.
The main issue in trying to sign Marion will be that he should have multiple contenders after his services for all the reason mentioned above, but again the Blazers are moving in the right direction and are maybe young enough to entice a guy like Marion. Marion pulled in roughly $9.1 million for the 2013/14 season, so there’s no telling what his services will command in the open market but the Blazers should definitely consider giving part or even all of their MLE to a guy who can possibly push them even further towards their goals of an NBA championship.