The Miami Heat “only” won two championships during LeBron James’ four seasons with the team, with the main personnel criticism from that run coming in the form of chiding the team’s front office for only going after big names in its attempts to build a roster.
Mike Miller seemed obvious. Shane Battier seemed like a pick from straight out of central casting. Ray Allen seemed like a perfect, famous fit. Chris Andersen seemed like the way to go. Even the buy low options – former high end lottery picks like Greg Oden and Michael Beasley – had enough Q rating to make the headlines. We’d heard and seen all of these players before, and in the end there wasn’t a whole lot of home-grown talent to work with.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, to the dismay of some, are taking the same approach. Veteran forward Shawn Marion has reportedly agreed to terms with the team in the advance of what Shawn hopes will be another championship turn. Marion will join what could turn out to be a star-studded front court, should the expected trade for Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Kevin Love go down as expected.
Ray Allen could also join the team. Mike Miller is already on the team. Names, names, big names.
Marion’s production declined last season in Dallas as Monta Ellis’ impact swelled, but he’s a bargain at the minimum, $1.4 million price he’ll make next season. Capable at either the stretch four or small forward position, the former All-Star and 2011 NBA champion (sorry, LeBron) can defend three positions soundly and stretch the floor even if he’s not making the league average percentage from three-point range.
Additionally, in a four-and into-five year run that has seen LeBron James make the Finals four times in a row (something Michael Jordan never did), Marion will give James a blow as a wing and big forward defender; something he never had in Miami. He’ll also perform better than Love, should the potential trade go through, as a pick and roll defender in undersized lineups.
The criticism from here, and a quick search around the Internet will reveal as much, is that the Cleveland Cavaliers don’t really need more forwards, shooters and scorers. That they really need a big man in case Anderson Varejao (currently playing international basketball for Brazil’s team) goes down, and a reserve point guard.
My criticism of that criticism? I’ll steal from Seinfeld – who are these people?
That same Internet search will reveal columns that don’t actually point to who the Cavaliers should be attempting to sign or trade for, nor do they chide the Cavs for declining to pursue previously signed players in this offseason. There are no actual specifics behind the non-moves, just bash-work centered on the idea that the Cavs failed to land the mythical “guy who can protect the rim” without noting that that particular guy wasn’t really available this summer. Were the Cavaliers supposed to pull Joakim Noah out of a hat?
In response to that, you go after the best players available – and Shawn Marion/potentially Ray Allen on the cheap, and a 26-and-12 guy in return for a couple of talented kids clearly fit that mindset.
“LeBron James-as-general manager”-jokes abound these days, and that’s fine, but this isn’t some instance of LBJ/GM building some fluffy cadre of stars. These are the guys that are around this summer, via trade or signing. Tyson Chandler isn’t available until next summer. Roy Hibbert can’t be had in return for Dion Waiters. Joakim Noah isn’t going anywhere. And capable defensive-minded reserve centers just don’t walk the earth anymore. Those guys are called “starting centers.”
In lieu of those candidates, you sign a slim but strong hybrid forward on his last legs to the minimum salary, and keep your eye on an ever-churning trade and free agent market. Shawn Marion isn’t the answer in Cleveland, but he sure as hell doesn’t hurt the Cavaliers’ championship chances.
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