Third in a five-part series examining the re-tooled Dallas Mavericks, position by position.
With all of the modifications to the roster this summer, small forward remained virtually unchanged. Shawn Marion, who once fell under the category of potential amnesty candidate, once again undeniably proved his value at both ends of the floor. Barring a late-summer trade, Marion will again hold down the starting 3-spot. Vince Carter, who saw increased time behind Marion last season will likely be a contributor here again now that shooting guard has been reinforced with O.J. Mayo and Dahntay Jones, plus a plethora of combo guards that could vie for playing time. Rookie forward Jae Crowder will be interesting to watch as he looks to make an immediate impact after an impressive all-around performance at the Las Vegas Summer League.
How it came together
The Mavs had two amnesty candidates -- Marion or center Brendan Haywood -- and for much of last season it was at least something of a debate as to which one it would be if the club landed Deron Williams. Marion was a possible target, not so much because he was expendable, but because the Mavs would be hard-pressed to fill the center position with a quality starter if Williams had signed a maximum free-agent contract. As the season progressed and Marion's value was glaringly obvious while Haywood's erratic play (and nonexistent play in the first-round loss) continued to be a head-scratcher, it became obvious that Marion, signed through 2013-14, wouldn't be going anywhere. Carter's 2012-13 contract for $3.1 million was fully guaranteed on June 30. Two nights earlier, the Mavs traded out of the No. 17 slot and picked up Nos. 24, 33 and 34. With the last pick they nabbed Marquette Crowder, who stands a legitimate shot to become a reliable rotation player.
The obvious is that Marion remains spry at both ends of the floor and is an excellent teammate in the locker room. He led the Mavs in rebounding last season, averaging 7.4 boards per game, a rare feat for a small forward. Defensively, he was called upon to go above and beyond the call of duty, charged at times with guarding four positions in any one game, including a run prior to the All-Star break of checking top point guards. With speed and defensive acumen added to a re-tooled backcourt, Marion should be able to devote more of his time strictly to guarding the game's toughest wings, such as Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James. ... Carter should also benefit from a bolstered shooting guard position. He played well at small forward last season and should be able to play fewer overall minutes, which will help him stay fresher and perhaps increase his shooting percentages. ... And then here's the wild card. Crowder has an NBA physique and isn't afraid to rumble. After a strong summer league, Crowder figures to get every chance to break the rotation. He's a high-motor player with a blue-collar work ethic, so defense, hustle and rebounding will be top priorities. Still, it would be shortchanging him to say he won't be a scoring threat. Crowder averaged 17.5 points as a senior and shot nearly 50 percent from the field. The Mavs are working to move his mid-range game out to the 3-point arc, where he wasn't bad at Marquette at 34.5 percent.
Depth, like last season, is questionable, and Marion and Carter aren't getting any younger. Marion is 34 and entering his 14th season. His 10.6 scoring average last season was his lowest since his 10.2 mark in his rookie season. His 44.6 field-goal percentage was the lowest of his career. Marion hasn't averaged at least 13 points since the 2007-08 season. ... Carter's game, while occasionally taking to the stratosphere, is more ground- and perimeter-based than ever before. His shooting percentages, both from the field and beyond the arc, dipped as the season wore on and he was awful in the playoffs, shooting 29.3 percent from the floor and 30.0 percent from the arc. His 10.1 postseason scoring average was by far the lowest of his career and his 41.1 shooting percentage was the lowest since 2004-05 ... As a rookie, how much can be expected of Crowder? Coach Rick Carlisle has not shown great love for rooks, but this one, a four-year college player who worked his way up from junior college to becoming the Big East Player of the Year, might be the exception.