It's funny the difference a king makes.
Without LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers probably wouldn't be much of a free-agent destination. Not being a legitimate contender or big, warm-weather market usually forces a team to scrape the bottom of the barrel for free agents.
With James in tow, the Cavs can realistically go after the best players still on the market—even with a complete lack of resources to do so.
In this instance, it's veteran forward Shawn Marion whom the Cavs can put the full-court press on.
Here's Marc Stein of ESPN.com:
Free-agent defensive stalwart Shawn Marion is the latest target for LeBron James'Cleveland Cavaliers, according to sources with knowledge of the team's plans.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Cavaliers are hosting Marion in Cleveland on Monday and are trying to complete a deal with the former Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks forward despite their inability to offer more than the league minimum.
Even though Cleveland can't offer Marion anything that 29 other teams can't financially, the chance to play next to James is wholly unique.
That's a big deal on its own for veteran players, but again, the opportunity to play with James is something that can't be matched. Rarely are non-point-guards this unselfish and capable of creating open opportunities for their teammates.
James makes the game incredibly easy.
That should be attractive to just about any veteran, and Marion is no exception. While his biggest impact has always come on the defensive end, he has been reliant on players who can find him on cuts and in transition offensively for a long time—whether that be Steve Nash with the Phoenix Suns or Jason Kidd or Jose Calderon with the Dallas Mavericks.
James can fill that role for Marion, and Stein suggests there may be some preexisting relationships in place to make Marion cozy in Cleveland:
Cavaliers general manager David Griffin has a strong relationship with Marion from their Phoenix days together and Cleveland, sources said, would love to bring Marion in to add depth, experience and versatility to a core that is expected to also feature Kevin Love if the Cavs complete their long-anticipated trade with Minnesota for the All-Star power forward later this month.
Marion is a natural target for the Indiana Pacers in the wake of the devastating injury suffered over the weekend by Paul George, but sources told ESPN.com that the Cavaliers -- thanks to the presence of James -- have the upper hand over Indiana or anyone else recruiting Marion at this juncture.
If the goal for Marion is to win a title, Cleveland is one of his best options. The Western Conference is just too stacked to realistically separate many of the favorites, but in the East, there are much clearer tiers.
Marion might be taking a leap of faith that a Kevin Love trade would happen, but either way, he'd fill a need for Cleveland. This is a team that has very few plus defenders on the roster, and Marion's ability to cover and play multiple positions is a big deal.
The frontcourt forward tandem of James and Marion could happily switch every pick-and-roll defensively and be better off for it. That's the same strategy the Atlanta Hawks used to pull off with Josh Smith, and in that sense, Marion is similar.
Even though he's lost a step athletically, Marion can be a key rotation piece for Cleveland.
Matt Moore of CBSSports.com broke down what Marion could look like on the Cavs:
Marion fits multiple needs for the Cavs. They need depth, with a roster cleared to makes space for James' max contract. They need veterans, on a team that currently features four of its top six players under 25 (pending the Kevin Love trade). And they need defense.
The move is especially interesting when taken into consideration alongside the Love trade possibility. Marion would provide a defensive alternate for Love and a versatile weapon to replace James when he takes a rest. Lineups featuring James, Marion, and Love would be center-less, but also extremely versatile at both ends. If the Cavs went huge with all three on the floor with a shot-blocker, they might lack perimeter speed but also be able to devastate inside and out in other ways.
Although he's not the shooter Shane Battier was, Marion could provide Cleveland with a similar frontcourt partner for James. He'd do a lot of the dirty work defensively, rebound above his size and move to open areas of the floor.
Cleveland already has quite a few pure shooters on the roster, so Marion's versatility would be welcome on both ends.
The only issue here might be Marion's reluctance to pass up more money elsewhere. It's unclear if any team is offering that, though, and a return to Dallas seems out of the question at this point after the acquisition of Chandler Parsons.
Here's what Marion told Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News earlier this offseason about his time in Dallas:
It was memorable, baby. It’s hard to say it wasn’t fun. We had a great run and made the playoffs four of five years and won a championship. We set goals every year, and most years we reached them. And to win a championship, it was unbelievable. I wish we could have made a couple more runs at it, but it is what it is.
James knows firsthand what Marion is capable of, as the ring Marion has on his finger came in large part because of his ability to stay in front of James.
That's something else Cleveland is likely weighing in its recruitment of Marion: Keeping him away from fellow Eastern Conference rivals deprives the conference of one more guy with the length, size and quickness to at least be a slight annoyance to LeBron.
For all those reasons, Marion would be a great pickup for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The veteran's minimum is a price that literally can't be beat, and even if Marion starts to rapidly decline, the worst-case scenario is that he'd occupy a roster spot that could have been used elsewhere.
While it's possible that there is a younger player out there in free agency who could provide Marion's production defensively and in transition, there's value in adding another veteran who has been to the top of the mountain before.
As it stands right now, Cleveland is still a very young team, and veterans like LeBron and Anderson Varejao will have their hands full getting everyone up to speed. Having a useful rotation player that doesn't need his hand held through the process could remove some pressure, even if he appears to be on the decline.
Marion has always been a guy who can plug a lot of different holes, and Cleveland isn't short on those despite the presence of LeBron.
He'd be a strong pickup for any team with championship aspirations, and Cleveland certainly has those.
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