Marion Upgrade? Not So Fast

Shawn MarionThere’s been plenty of talk in the offseason about the possibility of the Cavaliers trading Wally Szczerbiak and his expiring contract. In all honesty, the topic was brought up the instant the Cavaliers acquired Wally in the big Larry Hughes trade last season. So it should be of little surprise to anyone that trade rumors involving the Cavaliers and Szczerbiak are about to start popping up. The first one of the season came today.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports had the details in his column Tuesday morning. He wrote,

“The Cavaliers have had ongoing discussions with the Miami Heat about an Anderson Varejao and Wally Szczerbiak for Shawn Marion trade, a league executive familiar with the discussions said.

So, here is what the Cavs are asking themselves now: Do we dare?

Miami has had discussions with several teams lately on Marion, including the Toronto Raptors and Sacramento Kings, sources say, but Cleveland could deliver the most intriguing proposition. Marion has struggled with the Heat – averaging well below his career averages in scoring and rebounding – but several league executives believe he’ll be more motivated and valuable with a championship contender. That’s the reason Cleveland is entertaining the possibility. GM Danny Ferry and coach Mike Brown are wondering whether Marion could be the difference in a conference final against the Celtics.”    

While I wasn’t surprised to see Wally’s name in there, a name I was shocked to see was Anderson Varejao. Not that I don’t think there’s any chance the Cavaliers will trade Andy this year. But paired with Wally’s expiring deal for…..Shawn Marion? On face value, this trade proposal makes little sense to me.

However, people around the net seem to think adding Shawn Marion is exactly what the Cavaliers need to overcome the Celtics and to become the favorites to win the NBA title this year.

Matt Watson, writing on Fanhouse, thinks this is a good deal for Cleveland. He writes,

“The Cavs clearly need to weigh the consequences of disrupting their current chemistry, but Marion is a special breed of player who could contribute on both sides of the ball. A gifted defender, he can match up with any guard or forward in the league, and while he’s not quite as accurate as Szczerbiak from long distance, he’s certainly capable beyond the arc, too.

Paired next to LeBron James, who can seamlessly shift from point guard to power forward, the Cavs would have one of the most versatile frontcourts in the entire league. Ben Wallace would be pushed to the bench, but he’s averaging fewer than 24 minutes a game as it is — replacing his minutes with someone who’s almost as capable on the glass and 10 times more effective with the ball in his hands is an easy decision.”

Over at the Sporting Blog, Bethlehem Shoals thinks this is a risk worth taking for Cleveland, writing,

“Wally isn’t a winner. I hate that cliche, but here it applies. Varejao plays hard, doing the dirty work around LeBron and Big Z. He sells a lot of funny wigs. Marion? He’s like that, but skilled, better defensively, more of a threat offensively, and makes a team deadly in transition. What’s more, it’s only one year. Varejao has been a good soldier, but the Matrix is still a star at what he does — things no one else in the league can, or more importantly, will, do.

If the front office is trying to send a message to LeBron, standing pat is not the answer. Boston and Los Angeles are juggernauts; despite the Cavs excellent start, to really get on that level, it’s going to take a bold move. And no bold move comes without risk.”

Ken Berger writes for CBS Sports that this deal gives the Cavaliers some interesting options,

“The Heat clearly are not smitten with the idea of maxing out Marion, who would instantly make the Cavs a lethal threat to the Celtics’ repeat hopes. Cleveland could view it as a rental, or could extend Marion after the season if they believe LBJ would approve. The Cavs already have plenty of cap space in 2010 to re-sign LeBron and a top-tier running mate such as Chris Bosh. But clearing Varejao’s contract would make Cleveland a player in free agency next summer, when Carlos Boozer (player option) and Kobe Bryant (early termination) could be free. Miami would be in great cap shape, too, assuming Varejao declines his player option.”

If you read FanIQ at all, you might have seen this piece on the trade,

“Marion is an extremely gifted defender who would immediately boost Cleveland defensively. He’d also be the perfect guy to throw on Paul Pierce in the playoffs. Plus, having Marion paired up with LeBron would produce one of the most versatile front courts in the game and it would push Ben Wallace – who hasn’t done much of anything this year – onto the bench.”

So why am I the dissenting voice? Why do I think this is not a good deal for Cleveland at all? Well, let me answer that with a question of my own. Has anyone actually been watching Shawn Marion play in the last few years? Shawn Marion today is not the same guy he was back in the day with Phoenix.

Marion is hardly old. He’s only 30 years old. Realistically, he should still have plenty left in the tank. But Marion’s skills and output have been trending downward over the last few seasons. Marion peaked in the 2005-06 season with a Player Efficiency Rating of 23.66. His PER has gone down every year since. Down to 20.87 the next season, 19.10 in 2007-08, and down to a barely above average level of 15.92 this year. His scoring has been going down. He was scoring 21.8 points per game in that 2005-06 season. The following year he was down to 17.5 ppg, last year he scored 15.4 ppg, and this year is scoring his lowest points since his rookie season, at 12.4 ppg. His FG% has gone down every season since 2005-06. He’s only a career 33.9% shooter from three-point range. He’s never been a player to give you any assists whatsoever. He averages 2.0 assists per game for his career, and his career high is only 2.7 apg.

So what exactly does Marion give you? He’s a very, very good rebounder still, he’s still an above average defender, and he’s still sublime at running on fast breaks. Is that really what Cleveland needs, though? The Cavaliers are already paper thin at PF and C, especially with Zydrunas Ilgauskas already missing time with a sprained ankle. Removing Varejao and adding Marion doesn’t really fix that problem for Cleveland. The Cavaliers are hardly a fast break team, so Marion’s skills could possibly help them there, but it could just as likely be a wasted skill in the Cleveland half court offense. The Cavaliers are already one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA as well, so Marion’s rebounding would only be enhancing a strength.

For all the talk about how Marion’s offense would be a giant upgrade over Varejao, I can’t help but wonder if people maybe haven’t been paying attention to how well Varejao has been playing this year. More than just his offensive improvements, Varejao has improved in almost every aspect of his game.

In fact, if we compare Varejao and Marion this year, Andy comes out pretty favorably. Varejao is 57th in the NBA in PER with a rating of 17.82, while Marion’s mediocre PER of 15.92 has him ranked 100th in the NBA. Marion is averaging 12.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.4 steals per game, and 1.4 blocks per game. Varejao is averaging 9.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 0.9 steals per game, and 0.7 blocks per game. So advantage Marion there. But if you compare the 2 players’ per 36 minute numbers, it looks quite different. Per 36 minutes, Marion is averaging 12.0 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.4 spg, and 1.4 bpg, while Varejao is averaging 12.8 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.3 spg, and 1.0 bpg. On a per minute basis, the Cavaliers really aren’t gaining much.

There’s no doubt a starting lineup of Mo Williams, Delonte West, Shawn Marion, LeBron James, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas is an improved starting lineup, but the Cavs would then have an enormous drop off in 6th man going from Anderson Varejao to Ben Wallace. Furthermore, the Cavaliers would lose Wally Szczerbiak’s minutes off the bench, which would presumably be given to Sasha Pavlovic. Again, not a whole lot of difference there. And that’s the point.

The Cavaliers have one of the most valuable chunks of expiring money in the NBA. If and when they are going to trade Wally, they need to make sure they are getting a dramatic upgrade in talent. I don’t see how Shawn Marion is that answer. There’s always the chance that going back to a title contender would reinvigorate Marion and snap him back to his Phoenix form, but why take that risk? Marion isn’t exactly doing much to make Miami a better team, and I don’t see how he definitely would improve the Cavaliers.

So when I first heard about this trade rumor, I was skeptical about the validity of it. I have no doubt Ferry is talking to many GMs and doing his due diligence in figuring out what he can get for Szczerbiak, but Ferry has never been one to make a move just for the sake of making a move. He tends to be patient and deliberate in his dealings. Thankfully, Brian Windhorst stepped up to the plate for us and let us know the truth about this rumor. He writes,

“You never say never in the NBA; perhaps circumstances will change. But as of right now the Cavs and Heat are not in trade talks concerning Marion and Varejao. This is from multiple team sources.

What the Cavs need is another big man and Marion isn’t a big man and Varejao is. So if they made such a deal they’d be in worse shape. Which is why I said before, it doesn’t make much sense.

Also, if the Cavs are going to use Wally Szczerbiak’s contract they are going to go for a home run. This next trade very well may be the most important in Cavs history. So it has to be just right. I will write about this a lot more in the coming weeks, just know that right now this rumor isn’t true.”

The Cavaliers are 20-4 right now with a 6 game lead in the Central Division. They are 1st in the NBA in offensive efficiency and 2nd in defensive efficiency. They’re 5th in points per game and 1st in points against per game. They are 4th in FG% and they are 2nd in opponents FG%. Team chemistry is at an all time high. There’s no doubt they are not at Boston’s level yet, and there’s no doubt Danny Ferry will be looking at all options regarding Wally Szczerbiak. But to just make this move now and alter the team’s make up so severely on a gamble that Shawn Marion can still be the same player he once was makes no sense for the Cavaliers at this point. If Ferry made this deal and it didn’t work and Marion remained the same player he has been for the last few years, it would be easy to see the Cavaliers regress, a result that would be disastrous for this franchise in the scope of LeBron James’ future.

  • S-Dub

    If it was Wally and Sasha for Marion then I’d do it, IF there wasn’t a better deal out there. And, I’m willing to bet that their will be a better deal out there. I’d actually rather have Gerald Wallace than Marion at this point. I don’t like the idea of giving up Andy because we don’t have the bigs to step in for him, and I bet we can re-sign him. Ferry has proven to be a good Gm and good in the trade market. If he waits, an he will, at the deadline there might be a guy like Al Jefferson or maybe even Amare available. Or, he could keep Wally and just trade Sasha for a big like Joe Smith. That’s a move I’d rather see be made than Adrian’s big trade rumor.

  • Nick

    This is just a case of Adrian Wojnarowski spouting some BS. If there’s anything going on with a Cavs trade, if I don’t see Windhorst reporting it then I don’t believe it. Brian is the man.

  • Scott

    Wojnarowski is purely an NBA gossip columnist. He’s Perez Hilton without the propensity to draw on pictures.

  • RandyOSU

    Great assessment here-it is troubling to look at the downward trending in Marion’s game over the past several years. He can help, but this proposed price is too high. While I would be amenable to moving Andy for the right deal given that he probably will opt out for next year, his rebounding and interior defensive presence would be sorely missed unless replaced with a bona-fide interior presence. Marion is more of a finesse PF adept at running the break. And……I’d not want to move Big Ben to the bench-he provides an intimidation factor, blocks shots, does the dirty work that nobody sees, and has developed a leadership role on this team. You don’t want to “demote” Big Ben and lose his zeal-just keep his minutes to about the 24/game he’s playing. I’d be very wary of this deal given it’s potential to hurt team chemistry and the loss of a hard working big man that Marion wouldn’t be replacing.

  • IRB?

    I think I’d like to see NBA gossip with drawings on the pictures.

  • Chris M

    @ Nick & Scott – I came here to say the same thing about Wojnarowski.

    Rock, I was thinking the same thing when i heard this yesterday. 20 mil in expiring contracts ( if AV opts ) is most certainly worth more than Marion. I’m still not sure why these other guys are so high on him, unless it’s a massive conspiracy by Boston to get Ferry to think it’s a good trade.

  • Scott

    I just wonder what the high and mighty backlash would be if AW’s piece was written by someone like (for sake of better examples) ProFootballTalk or The Big Lead…

    Stop the madness already.

  • Windy City Wahoo fka MoBot

    Great piece, Rock.

    Wojo = Perez Hilton might be the best metaphor for Wojo I’ve ever heard.

  • Boomhauer

    Marion had a bad case of Larry Hughes-itis when he said last year that he would rather be the No. 1 on a bad team than a No. 3 on a good team. Don’t need that attitude here.
    Now if the Wiz want to move Antwan Jamison…

  • Lyon

    You only move Andy if you get another big in return. You nailed it right on the head. This move does not automatically improve us. Sit back and let the stars come to us. By the deadline there will be more big name players we can trade for. And hopefully with a lower price as well.

  • Ben

    Terrible, terrible trade. As the Cavs stand now, they still need another big (here’s hoping Joe Smith gets bought out by OKC). Trading a big for a wing player (albeit one who can play some PF defensively) is a terrible idea.

    That being said, if it’s Wally and Sasha, then this is an entirely different story.

  • AMC

    I agree with everyone who says moving Andy would just be too much. The Cavs simply don’t have enough front line depth and Andy is a key piece of their success right now. I agree with those who believe Ferry would like to lock Andy up to a long term deal given Ben Wallace’s and Z’s age and our general lack of depth at PF/C. I think Ferry would only trade Andy is he thought a long term deal wasn’t possible. As Boomhauer mentions though, if the Cavs could somehow land Antwan Jamieson, I would be most pleased.

  • Brian in Medina

    Wally has an attractive contract to a team looking to have cap room for the 09-10 season. For that reason, he was first on the list of every single sports writers ‘Guys that May Move Midway Through the Season’ list.

    But then a funny thing happened – Wally became a productive and needed role player on a team that is outpacing its competition.

    It’s just that none of the sportswriters took Wally off their list. The Cavs will listen to all offers (they’d be foolish not to), but they won’t mess with a successful formula.

  • Jason

    Do the Cavs really need a guy they hope will be “reinvigorated”? If they guy can’t get up to play in South Beach with D-Wade, what’s going to motivate him? It would be a bad trade for the Cavs. Now Amare Stoudamire on the other hand…

  • Ricky

    I agree with what everyone is saying. Ferry has shown that he only makes trades that he is certain will improve the Cavs, and this obviously doesn’t do that. Unless Andy is replaced with some other player in the deal, it doesn’t help the Cavs. It is still unknown which players might become available at the trade deadline as some teams still think they are in contention but they won’t be come Jan-Feb

  • Allen

    If Varejao continues his upward trend, he will be the next Dennis Rodman…minus the technical fouls and wedding dresses.

    I’m not sure we can replace the spark he brings off the bench.

    Will Marion defend KG better than Varejao did in the playoffs?

    Keep the Wild Thing!

  • Jeff

    I wouldn’t make this trade either. I think Marion could be a good addition, but Andy is playing pretty well so far this year. I agree if it was Wally and someone else then probably yes. We need a big man though. I hear people talking about Gerald Wallace, and maybe that would be good. Are there any other big’s out there that could be on the market? I don’t even know. But I would rather wait out till closer to the deadline. It isn’t like we are playing bad and need an upgrade at the moment.

  • Tsunami


    NO way. No way in HELL.

    Wally’s expiring needs to bring in young talent that is going to get better. That’s why the Mo Williams deal was so sweet – he’s on the UPTICK!

    And don’t sleep on Pavs. Everyone wants to get rid of him, he’s one of our best on-ball defenders and has looked pretty decent offensively this year.

  • P@

    I am late to the party with this comment, but I agree with Boomhauer… I would rather Danny Ferry wait and see if he can pry away someone like Antawn Jamison. That guy plays his @$$ off, puts up excellent stats in scoring and rebounding, and he’s a great locker room guy to boot. He can’t help you at the 5, but he’s a rock-solid 4.

  • Keith McGlothin

    Are you kidding? I make this move in a heartbeat. Let’s not kid ourselves here. the Cav’s have gotten off to a tremendous start at 21-4 but they have beaten a lot of bad teams and teams short handed. For example they caught decent teams short handed and have lost to good teams. Last year they were losing to bad teams. This is not enough to beat Boston. The only difference is that maybe James won’t take 30 shots in a game 7 with no one else getting over 8. Lets look at the current situation.

    First of all taking the ball out of James hands has given you more balanced shooting. Other guys are getting shots in beter positions. West is shooting better getting a little over 1.5 shots more a game. Ilgauskas is now a part of the offense, he is playing less barely over 25 mins yet getting 3 more shots a game. Because guys are getting shots they have all seemed to pick things up on the defensive end.

    Guys roles are clearly defined and accepted and the end result has been team chemistry and success. The team is light in the front court, but James has played more on the blocks so far this season than he had all of last season. Ilgauskas is more effective and Wallace doesn’t hurt you because Ilgauskas is a part of the post offense as opposed to playing vollyball off the offensive glass off of James misses.

    The only value in Szczerbiak is his contract. He isn’t the shooter he was struggles to get off his shot when defended and is not a good defender. Did you not pay attention to him against Boston last year? Varejao is a role player and is nothing more than a 6 and 6 guy whose numbers are up bit as well because James is of the ball. He isn’t a defensive stopper; doesn’t finish at the basket, is offensivel challenged, and can’t make free throws down thje stretch. He should not be on the floor at the end of games, but do his part to help get you there.

    You’re basically giving up 2 bench players for an all-star. ;arion gives you everything Varejao gives you and more aside from size and he plays bigger this is a career 18 and 10 guy. I would rather see him matched up on Pierce than James. Gibson is a good shooter, probably best on the team, Pavlovic is playing better, if you can get Smith back after a buyout, this is a no brainer. Marion will give you 35 minutes easy and is another finisher and scorer on the floor. This woukd be one of the best front courts in the league.

    You aren’t bring Szczerbiak back and definitely not at that price. If you’re high on Hickson and you plan to make a push for Bosh in 2010 you start that transition now. I think Hickson will better than Varejao, he just has more upside in his game and you can see it when he gets extended minutes. He gets about 8 mins now so now he will get 10-12 You’re a much more dangerous and deeper team and you aren’t hurting your cap while giving yourself the best chance to make a run.

    The best way to look at it is would you rather go against Varejao or Szczerbiak or Marion? Varejao is not a difference maker Marion can be. Make this move!

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