The Matrix Removed

February 6, 2008

matrix.jpg

Note to Shawn Marion owners: don’t get too excited just yet.

Yes, the Matrix is en route to Miami after being traded along with Marcus Banks for “The Big Saguaro,” meaning he will no longer be playing third fiddle in Phoenix to Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire. Marion owners seem to be excited about this, with the thinking being that Marion’s digits will explode once in South Beach. Don’t be so sure. Why is second fiddle for a crap team better than third fiddle for a great one?

While I give Nash a ton of credit for Marion’s development, it’s fair to point out that he was already a stat monster when Nash arrived. In the 2003-04 campaign, Marion averaged 19 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.3 blocks per contest. That also happened to be the season that Mike D’Antoni arrived in December to replace Frank Johnson. With D’Antoni’s up-tempo, European style of play, and Nash running the show, Marion was let loose to use his athleticism. Phoenix scored points and was scored on, leading to more opportunities on the glass and the scoreboard. After three straight seasons of a falling shooting percentage, it jumped back up to 47.6 percent. Since then, with Nash setting him up for open looks, Marion hasn’t been below 52 percent. But let’s not start proclaiming that his solid shooting is a product of that awful looking jumper he’s got.

Look at it this way – right now he’s Phoenix’s fourth-best scorer while taking the third-most shots per game on the team. This is for a Suns club that is outscored on a nightly basis only by the Golden State Warriors. Now look at Miami. Marion will certainly not displace Dwyane Wade as the primary option, so look for him to be the No. 2 shooter (assuming that Ricky Davis doesn’t start firing away with Shaq gone) on the club. But he’ll be the second option for a team that is last in the NBA in scoring – putting up 17 fewer points per game.

And Shawn won’t be getting the alley-oops and easy buckets the way he was in Phoenix, either. Do you really think that Jason Williams and Banks will be looking for Marion in the corner when they could put up circus shots or chuck three-pointers themselves? Not likely. Marion is going to have to work harder for his points, meaning his shooting percentage will probably dip back to the 45 percent range – not awful, mind you, but not near what he was doing in Phoenix.

Yes, the intangibles should still be there, assuming Miami’s losing ways don’t rub off on him immediately. The rebounding, blocks, steals; don’t expect a drop-off there. But don’t expect a big increase – if at all – in points, and don’t be surprised when he’s no longer carrying your club’s shooting percentage on his back.

As for the rest of the pieces to this puzzle, Banks should see an increase in minutes and consistent production, but likely not to the extent that he’s contributing in deep fantasy leagues. Shaq? Well, this move should certainly re-energize him – but unless it comes with a working hip, his numbers probably won’t increase significantly, if at all. Boris Diaw actually turns into the big winner here, because there is no way that Shaq will be able to run with the Suns more than 20-25 minutes per night. Considering Marion was playing more than 36 minutes per game, Diaw should jump up into the 32 mpg range and become a more consistent fantasy contributor. On the Miami side, Mark Blount is actually a serviceable option the rest of the season. Granted, he’s the worst 7-foot rebounder in the history of life, but he does know how to score points – and when you have center eligibility and can score, there is always room for you on fantasy teams.

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Quick Hit

February 5, 2008

Hey folks, just a quick heads up here. A few of my former colleagues from our days back as editors at Fanball have decided to have a group blog of sorts, where we will take all the fantasy-related topics from our individual blogs and post them together to create a sort of mega fantasy sports destination – with all of the insight and flair you came to know and love during our regime. The site is called Kind of a Big Deal Sports, and as you might imagine, it’s kind of a big deal. We’re just getting the ball rolling here, but for those of you who miss getting all of the wit and knowledge of myself, John Tuvey, Jon Lopuch, Chris Bracke and others all in the same place, your luck has turned. So bookmark, RSS link, GoogleReader or do whatever else the kids are doing these days to get back to KOBD on a regular basis to check out what’s up. Thanks!