LeBron James is just one man.
On Sunday, it was announced that Shawn Marion has agreed to sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Due to other financial commitments, the Cavaliers can only sign Marion to a league-minimum deal, but that did not deter Marion from seizing the opportunity to team up with the King.
Marion is the latest free agent to sign with the Cavaliers since James announced his return to the Cavaliers on July 11. He follows in the footsteps of Mike Miller and James Jones, who both also took lesser deals to join the Cavaliers.
While the actual impact of the signings of Jones and Miller are debatable, that’s not the case with Marion — this acquisition is a huge coup for the Cavaliers.
Marion could have easily signed with the Indiana Pacers for significantly more money. The Pacers have been granted a $5.3 million disabled player exception by the NBA in the wake of Paul George’s season-ending injury suffered on Team USA, and that money could have been used to acquire Marion’s services.
Instead, Marion chose to sign with the Cavaliers on a minimum salary of $1.4 million as the Cavaliers have used all of their cap resources and exceptions elsewhere.
While it’s true that Marion is 36-years-old, and his best days are behind him, his value is evident. He immediately makes the Cavaliers better on both ends of the floor, and he still averaged 10.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in 2013-14.
He is widely considered to be one of the NBA’s best pure wing defenders, and there’s evidence to support that claim. Last year, Marion posted a defensive win share of 2.1. The statistic is an estimate for the number of wins contributed by a player for his defense. Marion’s overall win share for the season was 2.2, which indicates how defense has become his calling card during his later years.
The number might not seem flashy, but it’s impressive for a guy that’s already 36 and is known for his defense. In basketball, like in any sport, the cost of a win remains a steep price. Would you pay $1.4 million for 2.1 wins? Seems like a bargain.
Similarly, the signing of Marion is valuable because defense has been a problematic area for the Cavaliers in recent years. James’ arrival helps alleviate that concern, but there is still Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters and the myth that the two actually play defense.
The acquisition of Marion offers quite the juxtaposition from the acquisition of Miller and Jones. Miller and Jones were brought to Cleveland for one reason — 3-point shooting. James is going to garner so much attention from the opposing team’s defense, and the two are sure to be open for plenty of looks.
The strategy worked brilliantly when the two played alongside James in Miami, and there’s no reason that is should not work in Cleveland as well. But we all know that neither Miller or Jones are going to offer much defensive assistance, which makes the Marion signing even more important. The Cavaliers will need someone that can grind it out and wear down another team, and that’s Marion.
Also, while the pending acquisition of Kevin Love is a colossal boost, it does little to solve the team’s defensive woes. Love’s gaudy numbers of 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game are nice on the surface, but his defense is questionable at best. Opposing teams knocked down 63.1 percent of their shots within five feet of the basket against the Minnesota Timberwolves last season, which ranked dead last in that category.
Any team will live with Love’s defensive issues considering his offensive ability, but that’s what also makes Marion such a nice addition. He can come in and spell James, and the Cavaliers still have a plus-defender to complement Love on the floor.
Marion is known to be a wing defender, but don’t underestimate him as a rim defender either. At 6-feet, 7-inches and 220 pounds, he is still very much capable of banging, and this remains an underrated aspect of his game.
Take a look at the table below. It includes all of the players expected to be on the Cavaliers’ roster this season that played in the NBA last year.
|Player, 2013-14 season||GP||RPG||SPG||DWS||Opp FGA at Rim per game||Opp FGP at Rim|
As the table shows, opponents still challenged Marion a decent amount last season (3.6 field goal attempts per game at the rim), yet he held them to just 53.3 percent. Considering the attempts, that’s an impressive mark.
With James, Varejao and Marion, the Cavaliers now have a solid contingent of above-average defenders. One now must hope that Irving, Waiters and others can follow suit because defense is a proven commodity in the NBA.
In the last 10 seasons, the eventual NBA Champion has never ranked lower than 13th in opponents’ points per game (Miami, 2006; LA Lakers, 2009). Outside of those two seasons, the champion has always been ranked amongst the top 10.
In comparison, the Cavaliers have ranked 23rd, 26th, 25th and 15th, respectively, in opponents’ points per game in the four seasons since James left the team. His return will obviously help improve that mark, but even a king can’t do it all alone.
That’s why it was so imperative for the Cavaliers to acquire a versatile defender like Marion, who can still give the team between 20 to 25 quality minutes per night. He averaged 31.7 minutes per season last season in Dallas, so that should not be a problem.
So, here is where we stand with the Cavaliers on Monday, August 18, two months prior to the start of the NBA season.
Kyrie Irving has agreed to a long-term extension with the organization.
A king has come home.
A deal for perennial all-star Kevin Love is pending and will be announced in a week.
Mike Miller and James Jones both accepted less money to join the team.
Shawn Marion followed suit on Sunday.
So, what’s the over/under on the win total for the Cavaliers this season?
Whatever it is, go ahead and now bump it up two with the news that Marion will be bringing his defensive prowess to the Quicken Loans Arena this fall.