Sunday, March 1, 2009
The Marion Effect
I know its fairly late to write a Marion review but I wanted to see his impact over a few games before talking about it.
What did I dislike the most about this trade? Really what stung was the loss of one of our only two way players.
In today's NBA, the ability to play on both sides of the court has really become such a lost art. So much to the point where those who do it, generally win it all, Jordan/Pippen, The Dream, Kobe/Shaq, Duncan, KG. That's some pretty fantabulous company to be in.
What I didn't know about this trade however, was how great Marion's skill set really was and how great a two way player he really is. His defensive capabilities are a little harder to understand because he played fast break defense for most of his career. With this style, you basically play defensive by blocking shots, playing the passing lanes and if neither works, don't foul. Because I didn't watch him in Miami, I and am sure many other fans weren't really aware of his defensive abilities in the half court. He's combination of athleticism, speed, IQ and his INSANE second jump allow him to stay in front of his man and also recover from minor slip ups. With his immediate arrival, one can see a stronger defensive impact than with the arrival of JO. The problem being that with JO, he was forced to compensate for our non existent perimeter d and either give up a layup, a foul, or in rare instances a block on a dunk. With Marion, our need to scream "HELP" is diminished. With Marion on the primary weapon and parker delegated to the next best, getting blown by has become less of an issue and as a result, we see the perimeter playing on the passing lanes much more. This style of defense has definitely stemmed from Marion's style and is imperative to our running game. The opposition gets a quick bucket that allows us to run or we get the steal and lead the fast break. Although JO is probably the better individual defender, both players are in more favorable systems and what more can you ask for?
The next biggest effect has to be the increase in short passes. As early viewers can attest to, it sure was frustrating since even three years ago seeing Barg and Bosh try to find each other in the key with short hard passes. JO in fact struggled the most with both expecting these passes and trying to dish him out. Granted, he's never in his career probably ever played with another big who was worth passing to, or had the ability to pass back but still. I commend his effort here because if it worked, it would have been deadly, but 90% of the time it became a turnover. What impressed me the most about Marion was his short passing. In his Phoenix and Miami career, critics have always felt the one aspect of his game that sorely lacked was his ability to create for others and literally "see them". To be honest, I have not seen any evidence of this and his short passes are spectacularly efficient. With his crisp execution, it's definitely proven to improve our play in the paint and also when he dishes it off he generally gets great position for the rebound. He already has seemed to develop a good chemistry with parker and his ability to always find the bigs has been great. Just ask Jawai for his first points. The best thing about his short passes is that he knows he's good at it and as a result, he creates from the key out. When it falls to him, he quickly post ups and from there sees what the options are. This is something no Raptors currently do and it is painfully obvious now how effective it is when done by someone with great around the rim play.
Finally, he brings something the Raps haven't had since Davis in an offensive rebounder. It's amazing how instinctive it is as he's already averaging around 3 a game. It's definitely easier for him given that since almost all our shots are jump shots, rebounds are longer and he can more easily chase them down. In every game he's played so far, we've needed each one of those boards and with our great spot up shooters, his rebound and quick out almost always guaranteed a second chance point. In fact, I could be wrong, but I can't seem to think of a time yet where we missed on a second chance if it wasn't blocked. What's the best part about offensive rebounding, just like his passing, its proved contagious. You can already see Bargnani and Parker being influenced by Marion simply be playing in the key more, attempting the risker short passes and crashing the offensive glass.
These signs all point to more complete two way players as they learn what they can from Marion's short stay. To me, he's already proven he has significant ability left and with the recession undermining his true value, BC hopefully will keep him at a bargain. He needs to be where he can run and not many systems are doing that these days. Colangelo can save this team in one offseason simply by using the cap for a trade, and signing Marion with bird rights. Hopefully someone makes an offer to Delfino, we match and we suddenly have a nice looking 7-8 man rotation again.
To me, the future off this season and even the next still look bright so don't give up yet Raptor fans! After all, things could be worse, we could be the Clippers.