“Enough! Again must I contend with the creatures of this tiny world. They who, alone in all creation, have stymied my will.” – Galactus, Devourer of Worlds
With half the season over and done with, and a couple days off before facing San Antonio, it’s a good time to reflect on what we’ve seen so far from the Mavs. It was a strange time for this franchise in flux. The Mavs had a good hard look at the world without Nowitzki and shuddered. The Mavs endured more blowout losses than would be considered healthy for the fragile psyche of a new team. The rotations have been confounding at times. (Was it just me or did Derek Fisher play on the Mavericks for a few days? Was that real?) The Mavs dipped farther below 500 than they had in a long, long time. And yet, there’s been an encouraging push in recent days that moved the playoffs back into conversation.
If the Mavericks were to award MVP honors at mid-season, by most statistical indicators, it would go to O.J. Mayo. If you look at ESPN’s Hollinger stats page, O.J. Mayo has the highest “player efficiency rating” on the team at 16.8 (Not counting Brandan Wright’s astounding 21.08 PER. However, Carlisle has Wright nailed to the bench. It’s a debate for another time, but whose minutes do you subtract to give more time to Wright?) O.J. Mayo has the highest “value added” at 141.4, and the highest “estimated wins added” at 4.7. Mayo’s true shooting percentage is .001 behind Collison, who has the team’s highest percentage at .583 (once again not counting Wright, sigh). Another interesting figure cited by our own Bryan Gutierrez on the weekly rundown, O.J. Mayo has the second highest “clutch time production” in the league, i.e. the last 5 minutes in the fourth quarter with the score within 5 points.
To quote Dennis Velasco from the Basketball Jones, “O.J. Mayo had to settle for a one-year deal with the Dallas Mavericks this offseason, but so far the numbers he’s put up have been quite impressive. If life were a cartoon, his agents would have dollar signs in their eyes. He’s having the best season of his career…”
All true, but I would award the mid-season MVP to a more quiet performance. He’s someone so reliable, he almost goes unnoticed. In my opinion, Shawn Marion saved this season.
O.J. Mayo has been great, but his turnovers earlier in the season have been inexcusable. The fact that the Mavs reduced their turnover rate so completely in recent weeks is a credit to both Rick Carlisle and O.J. Mayo. It may say more about the promise of Mayo’s future than any of the other stats previously mentioned. He can learn. He can improve. He’s trying to develop a more complete game. He’s coachable.
But what has Shawn Marion delivered this season? He’s offered leadership. He’s been a confident veteran presence. He’s been the most consistent defensive player on the team, easily their best man-on-man defender. While Marion’s not the team’s highest scorer, he’s usually among the top producers. And on a team where they need several players in double digits to win, Marion’s contributions on offense cannot be ignored. It’s also how and where he scores. He can cut for a slam dunk. He can run the fast break. He has a beautiful floater and hook shot. These plays can change the pace of a game. If Marion feels like it, he can take a three point shot, which Carlisle will indulge him once or twice a game.
This season for the Mavs, Marion has notched the most offensive and defensive rebounds, is third for assists, top five in every other meaningful offensive and defensive category, and second for games started. Nothing glamorous, but nothing insignificant either.
Shawn Marion is a quiet MVP. Without him, I don’t know how the Mavericks would have survived to this mid-point in the season.
It’s that time of year when people start talking about the trade deadline. Shawn Marion’s name gets thrown around a lot, and I just cringe. Unless you could get a guaranteed all-star, I don’t see why anyone would want to do that. As a refresher on recent history, the Mavericks would not have won game five of the 2011 Western Conference Finals without Shawn Marion’s balanced production, a few key fast breaks and clutch defense under the basket. In the 2011 Finals, many fans attribute LeBron James’ fourth quarter collapse to the reason why they lost. My question for them: Who was guarding James? It’s as though people don’t even notice how Marion silently alters the fate of every game he plays in.
Who do you think is the mid-season MVP? Post in the comments.
David Hopkins is a freelance writer — a regular contributor to D Magazine and Smart Pop Books. When depressed, he likes to watch the games he downloaded via iTunes of the 2011 playoffs. It always put him in a good mood. Follow David on Twitter at @davidhopkins