Throbbing Matrix: The confounding case of Shawn Marion

Shawn Marion has been a vortex of fantasy value so far. In a bad way. Stop standing there and run!

Shawn Marion has been a vortex of fantasy value so far this season. In a bad way. Stop standing there and run!

 There were few players whose projected value prior to the season varied as wildly as Shawn Marion. Some viewed him as a sure-fire top 10 pick that would regain his Phoenix-era numbers. Others were far more skeptical and had him as low as the third round based on his sub-par performance in limited time with Miami last season.

After a 13-point, six-rebound performance in a win over the Bobcats on Monday, it appears that the skeptics clearly have the upperhand thusfar.

Marion has played in 18 games this season after playing in 16 with the Heat following last season’s trade. And it’s pretty clear he is actually playing worse.

16 games in 2007-08: 14.3 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.9 spg, 0.9 bpg, .459 FG%, .690 FT%

18 games in 2008-09: 12.6 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.5 spg, 1.5 bpg, .467 FG%, .735 FT%

Keep in mind that Marion’s minutes are essentially identical so none of his numbers have dipped because of reduced PT. His scoring and rebounding have dropped noticeably, though his percentages have slightly improved. He is still contributing very well in steals and blocks, but that’s not nearly enough to justify him as a first-round selection.

In his last nine games (starting with a 20-point, 14-rebounds effort on November 19), Marion is averaging 14.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.7 steals and .9 blocks while shooting 48 percent (58-of-122) from the floor and 84 percent (16-of-19) from the line.

So that gives some hope, but it’s nearly first round-type numbers. He is currently 78th in the NBA in PER (far below his coservative prjection of 51st). So what gives?

Part of the answer lies in Pace Factor. It’s no secret that during Marion’s years in Phoenix the team was constantly at or near the top of the list in possessions per game, giving everyone more opportunities for statistical whoreishness.

It seems obvious that if an NBA teams adds Marion, it would make sense to get out and run. And yet the Heat are 18ththis season with just 93.8 possessions per game – a full 17 per game behind the league-leading Knicks.

The clear conclusion would be that the Heat just don’t have the personnel to play that up-and-down style. But that would be wrong. They have an athletic team that is more suited to that style than a halfcourt, post-up offense. It’s no surprise that Marion wants to run more and would flourish as a result.

Marion’s future value lies in the ability of the Miami coaching staff to devise a more up-tempo style that suits the qualities of its  personnel. The problem that the Heat are 12-9 and playing well, so wholesale changes of strategy likely are’t going to happen.

So what’s left? Hope and pray for a potential trade, but even that seems dicey.

Marion trade rumours have been rampant since the season started. After all, he is a desirable player with a meaty expiring contract and if the Heat eventually go in the tank, a trade would make sense.

But even a trade would only boost his value if he lands on the right team. Thoserumoured to be having discussions with the Heat are New York, Chicago and Sacramento. If those rumours are at all true, it’s promising.

The Knicks lead the league in Pace Factor; it would be like Marion getting traded back to the 2006 Phoenix Suns. The Bulls are fourth in Pace Factor and Sacramento is 10th. All three teams are desperately in need of rebounding help.

But with Miami playing well in a relatively wide-open Eastern Conference (after the top two seeds anyway), why would they trade their second-best player away, even if they might not be able to resign him?

The bottom line is that drafting Marion anywhere in the top 20 was a mistake. Barring a miracle performance over the final five months, you will have to overcome an under-performing high draft pick for the remainder of the season.

However, his immense potential makes it nearly impossible to trade him and equal value, unless you are landing an actual first or second round talent.

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