It looks like the Miami Heat have struck out again in regards to adding legitimate bench depth at the wing. Free agent SF Shawn Marion has made a commitment to sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers, so he will travel east to join Mike Miller and James Jones on Cleveland’s ever-strengthening bench. Marion was not short of NBA suitors as the Heat, Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Clippers were all after his services, but it’s clear that the opportunity to play with LeBron James was an offer that he just could not pass up.
In Miami, general manager Pat Riley was given way too much credit for the Heat’s four-year successful run for using his “silver tongue” when it came to negotiating down salaries with veteran players of value. By that reasoning, one should conclude that Cavs GM David Griffin is on a whole other level, as Cleveland has clearly been the destination of choice for the best FA “got game geezers” and All-Star power forwards in this 2014 offseason.
I think the clear lesson here is that James is the common denominator in any scenario, and today’s NBA is definitely a players’ league where relationships from player-to-player and world-class talent are what builds dynasties — not smooth-talking, fan-worshiped GMs with a championship pedigree.
Marion’s impending signing will take Cleveland over the top in their quest for Eastern Conference supremacy. The Cavs desperately needed to help James out on the perimeter by strengthening their defense with a veteran bench player who could guard wing players and power forwards in a far more effective manner than what Shane Battier put out for the Heat over his final two seasons as a pro.
They just solved that problem with Marion’s addition, and now the Chicago Bulls should be on red alert. In regards to their bench, the Bulls only have second-year player Tony Snell as a perimeter defensive weapon, but Snell’s pitiful offensive game and inexperience in the league will nullify his presence on the court against elite opposition this season.
Snell played 16 MPG last year for Chicago and appeared in 77 games, but his woeful 38.4 field goal percentage and his paltry 4.5 PPG will have to drastically improve with a lot of hard work this summer. Otherwise, the Bulls will have to continue to keep SG Jimmy Butler on the floor for an absurd amount of minutes. Which unfortunately, has been all too often the case for their starting wings over the past few years, and SF Luol Deng wasn’t taking “less” money in Chicago to log those types of minutes anymore.
Marion may be 36 years old, but he can still contribute on the offensive end with his ability to get up and down the floor in transition, knock down threes and clean up missed shots on the offensive glass. Defensively, he proved that he could still guard PFs and rebound on the Dallas Mavericks last season, as he averaged as many RPG as Chris Bosh did for the Heat last year (6.5 RPG). He really is a Swiss Army knife of all sorts, and if Dion Waiters, Mike Miller or Tristan Thompson struggle with their defensive assignments, Marion will slide right in to get the job done properly.
Don’t call the Cavaliers Miami 2.0. This is Cleveland 2.0, and James’ commitment to excellence is the only bargaining chip that seems to successfully lure in the veteran talent.