Caron Butler will miss the rest of the season after surgery to repair a torn patella tendon Tuesday. While there remains the possibility that the Dallas Mavericks could seek to replace their starting small forward in the trade market, for the forseeable future Shawn Marion will loom large.
Dirk Nowitzki remains out with a knee sprain, and Marion has filled in for him as the team's starting power forward. Once Nowitzki returns, Marion will likely move to small forward, where he started 75 games for Dallas last season.
Yahoo!'s Kelly Dwyer has written about Marion's success at the position.
A few games spent watching the Mavs or a 30-second trip to 82games.com will tell you that Dallas has performed much better with Marion at small forward, and, individually, the veteran has performed much better defensively as a small forward this year. Better offensively, as well.
Marion has backed up both spots this season. The fact that Matrix's minutes at power forward have come without Nowitzki on the floor complicate an assessment of the team's performance; given that Dirk is the team's obvious best player, you'd expect that minutes in which Marion plays with Nowitzki, and thus at small forward, would produce results better than those when Marion is at power forward with any of the Mavs' small forwards next to him. That bears out -- 82games.com shows the Mavs at +51 with Marion at small forward and -64 at power forward.
But Nowitzki's value is primarily on offense, though he's a good defensive rebounder. As such, when you notice that the Mavericks' defense is better with Marion at small forward versus power forward, that's notable. The same was the case last season.
For the time being, Marion is hanging on at power forward while veteran DeShawn Stevenson covers small forward. But as soon as Nowitzki returns, Marion will try to convince the Mavericks they don't need to make a play for Carmelo Anthony, Tayshaun Prince or another name small forward.
For more analysis of Butler's injury, check out Mavs Moneyball.