Marion Linked to Cavaliers; What to Make of Rockets Current Frontcourt


May 2, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Shawn Marion (0) before the game against the San Antonio Spurs in game six of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center. Dallas won 113-111. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

There was speculation that Shawn Marion may have made a nice fit in Houston. This became even more of an idea given the news that Marion was not likely to re-sign with the Dallas Mavericks.

Unfortunately, Marion is now considering the Cleveland Cavaliers (via Marc Stein of ESPN).

This should not be surprising. LeBron James is a magnet for ring-chasing veterans. And Marion nicely fits this bill. The Cavs would likely also get Marion at a discount, with the intention of filling out the roster in coming seasons with more veterans.

By heavy pursuit of Kevin Love, the Cavaliers have made it known that the team will be in contention sooner than later.

Marion would be a great player off the bench, as he is capable of defending both forward slots. Moreover, against teams that featured a premier talent that the small forward spot, Marion could relieve LeBron James from defensive duties.

Marion is not the same “Matrix” player he was in Phoenix, make no mistake. That kind of athleticism slowly left Marion over the course of the last half decade. But even at age 35, he is still wiry and has enough guile to know how to control offensive players. He’s a streaky shooter with middling effectiveness, but his unorthodox jumper is enough to keep teams honest.

The Cavs will benefit from Marion operating in the 10-15 foot range, where his percentages are much better. Double teams to James dictate that these shots will open up in abundance. The offensive rebounds will be snatched up by Kevin Love (this is assuming the trade does indeed occur), who has averaged 12.2 rebounds per game over his six-year NBA career. In 2010-11, Love averaged 4.5 offensive boards per game. The opportunity to do this in Cleveland will be there, especially if Anderson Varejao needs more time to acclimate to the rigors of big minutes.

The Cavs are shaping up to be a true contender in the East, and have to be considered a favorite to end up in the NBA Finals. Vegas betting sites confirm this, with the Cavs listed with the best odds of 3/1. James is a money attraction. He’s expected to bring $500,000,000 to the economy of Cleveland. There is a reason why these guys are pursued and given max contracts. Within hours of his signing, season tickets for the 2014-15 had sold out in Cleveland.

It is all shaping up nicely for the Cavs, but for the Houston Rockets it is kind of another blow in what some perceive to have been a rough offseason. The Rockets may not have even heavily considered Marion, but the forwards listed in this mornings article on SCC accurately sum up how little is left in the free agent pool at this point.

Where does this leave the Rockets?  What led to it?

Continued development of Terrence Jones, Jeff Adrien and Donatas Motiejunas is crucial. Adrien could be another diamond in the rough for the Rockets. Per-36 last season, the 6’7” forward averaged 13.6 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. Adrien is most effective right at the rim, hitting 58.1 percent of his field goals within three feet. He shot 52 percent from the floor last season in 53 games between two NBA teams, the Charlotte Bobcats and Milwaukee Bucks.

Jones has to be considered the favorite for the starting role at this point. He’s shown his glaring deficiencies defensively, but he remains the Rockets best option. His length should eventually translate to better defense once rotations become more natural and he becomes further acclimated to defending bigger 4-men. He’s capable of stretching the floor well, and he finishes well in transition.

Motiejunas still has a lot of major improvements to make as a player, but the Rockets will need to see them come sooner than later. He’s teased Rockets fans with potential for two seasons, but has yet to establish a niche as an NBA player. D-Mo is also very foul prone, averaging over five fouls per-36. He shoots a lot of threes, but doesn’t hit a high percentage (28 percent).

It’s not as though he is valueless, but it may be that Daryl Morey seeks to showcase Motiejunas leading up to the trade deadline. Another rebuilding team may be able to make far better use of the big man, or even a team that needs a floor spacing big, or another team looking to fortify its frontcourt with a player whose potential is surely not tapped out yet.

The Rockets have a lot of unproven talent at power forward, but this is not a new situation.  Morey has been searching for his ideal power forward for two-plus seasons, since Luis Scola was amnestied.  Patrick Patterson, Toney Douglas and Cole Aldrich were dealt for Thomas Robinson and change.  Prior to that move and and the departure of Marcus Morris, the Rockets adequately filled the role with a timeshare.

The Suns now have benefitted from Morris, while Patterson is a valuable contributor for the much improved Toronto Raptors.

Morey’s gamble an unproven high lottery pick of the Sacramento Kings ultimately turned to sour milk.  Trading Robinson cleared $3 million in cap room, and it also admitted a big miscalculation on the Rockets part.  The Blazers haven’t seen Robinson blossom into much, as he’s still only seeing 12 minutes a game while posting about four points and four boards.  He was dominant at Kansas, but his lack of true position made him a bit of a risky wildcard at the NBA level.  Three teams have bet on Robinson in two seasons; and ultimately his NBA future is in peril.

If the Rockets still had Patrick Patterson, all of this would be rendered a moot point.

Statistics Source:  Basketball-Reference