The snail’s pace of negotiations for Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe are somewhat explainable, given that both are restricted free agents. It’s a little harder to believe that unrestricted free agent Shawn Marion still remains unsigned. He started 76 games for the Mavs last season and all seven contests during the team’s first-round challenge of the eventual-champion Spurs. The 36-year-old is nearing the end of his career, but he still appears to have a lot left to give.
The Heat had been expected to make a push for Marion when free agency began, apparently viewing him as the sort of player whose addition could help convince LeBron James to stick around. Of course, LeBron ended up elsewhere, and Miami committed its available cash to Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts, Danny Granger and its own free agents, leaving only the minimum salary left to chase anyone else. The Mavs can’t offer Marion more than the minimum, either, having renounced their Bird Rights on the versatile forward, exhausted their cap space, and spent the room exception on Jameer Nelson.
The Dan Fegan client probably would have signed by now if he had been willing to accept the minimum salary, and it appears he continues to hold out for more. That’s in spite of a growing number of teams limited to paying only the minimum. There were 11 such clubs when I ran them down this past Friday, and the Lakers have since joined that group. Similarly, Marion probably would have signed by now if teams with the $5.305MM mid-level exception or better thought he was worthy of that sort of cash, so it seems there’s a disconnect at play. Marion doesn’t appear too worried, recently telling Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News that, “It’s only July, man. We got two more months. We’ll just wait and see how it works out.”
Yet teams rarely dole out more than the minimum salary once September rolls around, and if they do, it’s not much more than that. So while there’s no need for Marion to sign now if he intends to play in the NBA next season, there’s urgency if he wants to play on a salary befitting his production.
Marion remains valuable, but there’s no doubt that he’s slowing down. The Mavs outscored opponents by 7.8 points per 100 possessions whenever Marion sat this past season, but they only broke even when he was on the floor, according to NBA.com. He put up a career-worst 13.7 PER this past season, a rather steep decline from his 18.0 mark in 2012/13. His 10.4 points per game in 2013/14 were his fewest since his rookie season, though that was a product of his shot attempts per contest nearing a career low as he played on a Mavs team that could draw its offense from an array of other capable sources.
More encouraging was his three-point stroke, as he nearly doubled his attempts from that distance over the previous season and improved his accuracy to 35.8%, his best mark in 11 years. That percentage is just about average in today’s NBA, but it nonetheless represents growing proficiency in a sought-after skill that’s extended many careers. It’s more difficult to gauge just how strong a defender Marion remains, but suffice it to say that the Mavs entrusted him with holding together their defense in a lineup largely devoid of stoppers.
The Bulls and the Rockets are the teams other than the Heat and the Mavs to have been linked to Marion this month. Chicago, like Dallas and Miami, has only the minimum to offer, but Houston would be an intriguing suitor if its efforts intensify. The Rockets have most of their non-taxpayer’s mid-level exception to spend, as well as their $2.077MM biannual exception. It would surely please Rockets GM Daryl Morey to poach the Mavs’ starting small forward after Dallas had done the same to Morey’s team with a near-max offer sheet to Chandler Parsons. It’s worth wondering if Fegan, who represents Marion as well as Parsons, harbors ill feelings toward Morey and company, given the acrimony surrounding Parsons’ cross-Texas move. Still, that probably wouldn’t forestall a deal in the end, especially since the Rockets employ star Fegan client Dwight Howard.
There are other seemingly attractive teams with either the cap space or the exceptions to give Marion a fair deal, including the Spurs, Hawks and Nuggets. Still, none have appeared to show interest. It’s conceivable that the market for Marion will soften once the fates of Bledsoe and Monroe are resolved. He’ll have opportunities, and it would be surprising if he doesn’t field multiple offers for better than the minimum. The questions are whether those offers will be for substantially more, just how long the deals would run, and just which teams will come to his doorstep. It seems as though Marion has ideals in mind for each, and, as he indicated, he doesn’t feel the need to compromise now, regardless of whether he’d ultimately be better served by doing so.