Countdown: Ranking the Mavs -- No. 6

The offseason provides plenty of opportunity for tons of fun things like traveling, playing in the World Series of Poker, throwing out the first pitch before a Cubs game and filming a reality show pilot with your mom and sisters. The NBA lockout just might provide time for more good times.

And Shawn Marion deserves them all. A year ago, we worried if the veteran would accept a bench role and he turns out to be an invaluable starter and defensive stopper on the world champion Dallas Mavericks. Marion has always scoffed at critics who said the run-and-gun Phoenix Suns played no defense. Marion contends that he sure did and after this title run, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James can attest to that.

So what's next for the Matrix?

Well, let's continue with the Countdown, my ranking and analysis of the 16 players currently on Dallas' 15-man roster, one a day, from least critical to most critical to a title defense (with likelihood of being on the roster next season playing a significant role in the ranking).

At No. 6:

Shawn Marion

Pos: SF/PF

Ht/Wt: 6-7/228

Experience: 12 years

Age: 33 (May 7, 1978)

Contract status: Signed through 2013-14

2010-11 salary: $7.1 million

2011-12 salary: $8.2 million

His story: With critics wondering if we've seen the last of the Matrix that made a living soaring to the hoop with the aid of glorious Steve Nash passes, Marion made a strong case that he's alive and doing quite well, thank you. In two seasons with Dallas, Marion, playing small forward and power forward, transformed his game to become the team's most prolific low-post scorer. He put those skills on display time and again during a magical postseason, scoring 16 points or more five times in the final nine games. In those games, he logged at least 35 minutes seven times and more than 40 three times. Marion, who took some grief in his latter days in Phoenix for being a bit disgruntled at taking a backseat to Nash and Amare Stoudemire, was a consummate pro last season. He started off accepting a bench role for the first time in his career. When injury forced him back into the starting lineup for good in March, he thrived and filled a void Dallas had been trying to plug since Caron Butler's season-ending injury on Jan. 1.

His outlook: Marion knows where he'll be next season: back with the Mavs. He's locked up through 2014 and if the franchise (or fans) had any notion of trading Marion, he quickly turned himself into a fan favorite and a keeper. What Marion doesn't know is if he'll continue on as the starter or return to the bench, where he was quite effective as well. Marion will likely head back to the bench and to more like 25 to 30 minutes a game if the Mavs re-sign Butler. If not, Marion is the starter with the lanky youngster Corey Brewer as his immediate backup (unless Dallas dips into the free agency pool to bolster the position). If Marion is the starter, it could pose problems from a minutes standpoint. Marion averaged 28.2 minutes last season and 31.8 the year before with Dallas. After Marion played 41 and 43 minutes, respectively, in Games 2 and 3, Carlisle played Marion just 26 minutes in Game 4 specifically to rest him. Marion would say he could have played more -- and he probably could have without an energy or production dip -- but the point is that over an 82-game season, Carlisle will want to manage Marion's minutes, just as he does with Jason Kidd and even now more with Dirk Nowitzki. A Butler-Marion combo would be the Mavs' ultimate preference.

The Countdown

No. 16 DeShawn Stevenson

No. 15 Peja Stojakovic

No. 14 Dominique Jones

No. 13 Ian Mahinmi

No. 12 Brian Cardinal

No. 11 Rodrigue Beaubois

No. 10 Brendan Haywood

No. 9 Corey Brewer

No. 8 J.J. Barea

No. 7 Rudy Fernandez

No. 6 Shawn Marion

No. 5 Coming Friday