The Mavs Hall-Of-Fame Case For Marion
Just before the start of Mavs training camp, I covered the Vince Carter Hall-of-Fame debate, noting that a strong and dependable season from Carter (tied in with the Dallas Mavericks' success) could compensate for certain flaws in the reputation of his career and perhaps put a bow on his Hall-of-Fame chances. (Read the Vince story here)
The other returning veteran alongside Dirk Nowitzki this season will be Shawn Marion. No one is really talking about Marion coming into this season, probably because they already know what they are going to get from him: 14-to-20 points per game off of efficient shot selection, productive rebounding and stellar defense for every minute he's on the floor. There's not much else to talk about. He's just consistent. But then again, that's been the story of career; he's been so consistent for so long that he might just have an outside shot at the Hall of Fame.
Or, wait: Why must it be an "outside'' shot? Can't it just match Shawn's own shot ... "unorthodox''?
Marion has never been flashy enough for his name to come up in many Hall-of-Fame debates, but his career numbers across the board are good enough that another handful of productive seasons should certainly make him a fringe candidate.
To gain a little perspective, let's compare him to a player who was inducted into the Hall of Fame just last month: Bernard King. Now, I understand that King and Marion are very different players. In his prime, King was an unstoppable scorer who could carry a team offensively while Marion has spent most of career being efficient in just about every aspect of the game. That being said, they are both 6-7 forwards and they both have played 14 seasons in the NBA (not including the two full seasons King sat out due to injury). The Hall of Fame is a measure of accomplishment and statistics are a huge part of that measurement so comparing the two players' numbers is worth a look.
Let's start with career totals:
19,655 points, 5,060 rebounds, 2,863 assists, 866 steals, 230 blocks, 51.8% FG
16,633 points, 9,402 rebounds, 2,023 assists, 1,642 steals, 1,169 blocks, 48.5% FG
As you can see, the numbers are very comparable. King was clearly a better scorer, but Marion's defensive numbers trump King's by a significant margin.
*It should be noted that injuries limited King to a very small amount of games in a few of those seasons, which will be addressed shortly.
The Per-36 career numbers reflect similar sentiments:
King: 24.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.3 bpg
Marion: 16.4 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.6 spg, 1.2 bpg
Likely factored into King's Hall-of-Fame bid was the fact that he suffered a devastating knee injury during the prime of his career. He was a great player who came back to be very productive, but seemed to lack his previous explosiveness. I'm fine with this type of logic when inducting a player, the fact that King was able to make such a great impression in a relatively short time span is significant. However, we must allow the other side of that logic as well: durability and sustained success should also be rewarded.
Even if Marion's best years are not as impressive as the phenomenal years King had in New York, his numbers are comparable because he has remained productive since his first season in the league.
I would also argue that Marion is pretty high on the list of most underrated players of his generation. He hasn't necessarily been unappreciated in his time as a Maverick, but perhaps under discussed. Think back to the Mavericks' championship run. Marion's defensive consistency is constantly overshadowed by the impact that Tyson Chandler had as a rim protector. Chandler's presence is not in question, but Marion did everything on defense. He played perimeter defense and interior defense and was huge on the offensive and defensive glass.
In that playoff run alone, Marion was the primary defender on Brandon Roy, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Very few players this side of Scottie Pippen can claim to have had succeeded in such difficult playoff defensive assignments. In the final seconds of Game 2 of the 2011 Western Conference Semifinals, Marion had the game-winning block of Kevin Durant.
If you think that's a common occurrence, set aside 20 minutes on YouTube to find clips of Durant being blocked in a similar way by anyone.
Marion's years in Phoenix are perpetually unappreciated as well.
Steve Nash came to the Suns and led the team with his two MVP's and Amare Stoudemire was the one on most of the highlight reels with his impressive dunks, but it was Marion doing everything in between. Not to mention that he was the only adequate defensive player on the team.
In 2005 when Nash won his first MVP he led the league in assists with 11.5 per game. Marion was third in the league in rebounding with 11.3. In Nash's second MVP season he led the league in assists with 10.5. Marion was once again third in the league in rebounding with 11.8. Don't be fooled into thinking that Marion wasn't an essential member of the Suns' "Seven Seconds Or Less" era.
Whatever this season brings for the Dallas Mavericks, it's all but assumed that Shawn Marion will do his part. That's been his reputation since he put on a Mavericks jersey, or any NBA jersey for that matter. He'll rarely get talked about in the national media, but it is worth appreciating his consistency because if he keeps it up, he might just be able to sneak his way into Springfield.
And maybe it helps just a little bit that we're talking about it. Because to paraphrase 'Trix, anybody who knows anything about basketball should be talking about it.
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