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Grizzlies traded Xavier Henry (the #12 pick in the 2009 draft) and a future 2nd round pick for Mareesse Speights on Wednesday.

At first glance it seems like a decent trade. Xavier Henry was never able to remain healthy enough to get any serious playing time and with O J Mayo taken off the trading block it didn’t look like he would be able to earn any playing time this year either. 2nd round picks usually aren’t that impressive either – Sam Young notwithstanding.

But first glances rarely tell the whole story.

When you dig a little deeper this trade may seem to be born more from desperation than intelligence and not just because the Grizzlies have lost Zach Randolph for the next 6-8 weeks of the season. This could be desperation born from pressure from the owner to win now and the reality that Dante Cunningham isn’t the long-term answer at PF, even as the primary backup.

Marreese Speights hasn’t played a minute this season despite Philadelphia being weak up front and he is not injured (or troubled with visa issues for that matter). Speights didn’t play because their coach didn’t want him on the court. So why would he not want a player on the court who last season put up stats that translated into 19.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per 40 minutes of court time?

Therein lies the question.

According to Philadunkia blogger Carey Smith, Speights struggled with Collins’ defensive structure in Philly, was reputed to be rather selfish with the basketball, repeatedly out of shape and was rumored to be disinterested in changing his reputation. Well at least that’s what I got between his laughing uncontrollably upon hearing the news that Speights had been traded.

He didn’t have a great opinion of Speights as a player.

Speights has always been a good shooter of the ball, but the NBA isn’t solely about offensive ability. Despite hitting 50.2% of his field goal attempts, and a respectful 41% from 10-23 feet, the 76ers couldn’t leave him on the court for long stretches because of his defensive liabilities. Ignore the Synergy stats that claim Speights to be an average defender. As John Hollinger wrote he fails the eye test. He is slow to rotate, rarely steals or blocks shots and is terrible at drawing charges (although he does flop a lot in attempting to draw them).

Now, my first thought when reading this scouting report was that it reminded me of the type of things written about Zach Randolph when the Grizzlies traded for him. Selfish player, only concerned with offense, terrible defender, a black hole on offense. It really doesn’t sound like a great deal, but if he can mature and develop his game the way Z-Bo did, then the Grizzlies may have found the proverbial Diamond in the Rough that Chris Wallace talks about all the time.

What are the chances the Grizzlies find gold twice? Chris Wallace is a great basketball mind but with no scouting department how much does he really know about Speights today? Are we to believe the offensive banger we saw in the charity games this season or the people who have watched him in practice this year (remember he hasn’t played in any games this season) and in games over the last few years?

The reality is Speights is a decent offensive player but a poor defender and by poor I mean terrible. Can he improve? Yes, and Lionel Hollins is likely to be the right type of coach to help him improve, but how much can he improve this season? Rumors around Philly are that he is terribly out of shape as well so it isn’t likely he will step in right away and log even 25 minutes much less the 35-40 Z-Bo put in every night. He doesn’t pound the glass on offensive end like Z-Bo does, but really who does anyway? The problem is he doesn’t pound the defensive boards like Z-Bo does either and that standard is much easier to reach.

If Hollins can reach Speights, and there is no guarantee that Speights even understands there is a problem, then by next season the Grizzlies will have a big, strong PF/C behind Z-Bo and Gasol who could make this team really terrifying down low. This season, a shortened season with very little practice time compared to a normal season, it is highly doubtful that Speights will be able to learn the sets and get in shape before Z-Bo gets back in two months.

Maybe I am being too critical but for some reason I believe this move was made to appease the owner who isn’t prepared to face the fact that the team he built on paper is not the team he has on the court anymore. It may not be a problem the way the team has bound together after Z-Bo’s injury but it sure would be nice if I had to write an apology to Speights in a couple of months and not an “I told you so” blog.

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8 Responses to Who Is Marreese Speights?

  1. HartNo Gravatar says:

    Nice summation of the Henry+pick-for-Speights trade. best case scenario seems like there will be a convergence of Z-Bo’s healthy knee & Speights conditioning in about 2 months. But, I think you named the big question “Can Hollins & Co get thru to this guy & get him to play team basketball?” If not, then we’ll have the worst case scenario and he’s going to be a total liability not only on the floor, but when you try to unload him for value in the market. Good article.

  2. Andy WatersNo Gravatar says:

    Good article, but I’ve been thinking about a more long-term issue: with Xavier gone, does this mean we have resigned ourselves to losing OJ this offseason for nothing in return? It seems to me like win-now mode is a lot like playing with fire around your franchise’s blueprints.

  3. CarloJ63No Gravatar says:

    Well…..I’m glad to have another big body in the front court, but all your hunches have me worried. I hope you have to write an apology as well. But in the meantime, I will hope for the best, and believe that Zbo will get in his ear and tell him first hand, what concentrating on being a team player can do for your reputation and career.

  4. Melvin FinkelsteinNo Gravatar says:

    I will gladly tell you about Marreese Speights…

    At first, you are going to fall in love with his jump shot for a big man, but more than anything else, here in Philly Speights was known for his big smile and team-rallying towel waving while on the bench (he’s really great at that!).

    After that, you’ll quickly realize that he doesn’t do anything else particularly well — especially things you expect from a big-man (defense, rebounding, set screens, etc.). He’s also a ball-movement killer. In other words, if he gets the ball, he’s shooting!!

    Actually, Speights is pretty much terrible at most things other than shooting. We were also fooled into believing that he had an upside that could be developed — one that could compliment his jumpshot. Unfortunately, he’s lazy and uncoachable. A recent article on Philly.com cited Speights as the only Sixer who came in this season out of shape. Nice.

    And one thing you might never catch on camera, but could witness while at a game, is what this guy does during a timeout. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen a guy who was dressed to play less engaged with what was going on in a huddle. As a younger player, you would THINK he’d be interested in what was being called, what the coach was telling the unit to do and all that, but Speights was usually the furthest person from Doug Collins when he was drawing up the X’s and O’s.

    So on behalf of Sixers fans, we wish you luck with Speights and thank you for the draft pick and extra cap space!

  5. stevedNo Gravatar says:

    Well, we have been playing Josh freaking Davis at C for decent minutes so something has to change. Hopefully, one of Speights, Cunningham and Hamed can provide some good back-up until ZBo then Arthur return.

    We just need some good defensive big bodies. Hopefully Speights can do better than rumoured, but I think Hamed will get decent minutes behind Gasol this season.

  6. GrizzdocNo Gravatar says:

    I have always felt that Hamed is highly underrated and actually did very well with the limited playing time on offer in the past. Having guaranteed minutes will hopefully further strengthen his confidence and stabilize his game even further.

    I was really excited about the signing of Speights, but I have to say that this article and the subsequent comments have really deflated my enthusiasm. We do have a history of short term success with troubled players (remember Bonzi Wells?), so maybe he will be just decent enough to hold the ship afloat until Z-Bo comes back.

    Man, how I miss Z-Bo already. This is going to be a long 2 months.

  7. GrizzliesDieHardNo Gravatar says:

    The one thing we need to remember is that Speights is coming to Memphis. There is something about Memphis that makes these guys go hard. I think Speights will give us 8pts and 6 boards a few nights, get into shape, and become the coachable player the Philly fans see he isn’t. Besides playing next to Marc may make him better. All I know is he’s a player I liked as a rookie and he’s in Memphis. So to all you Philly fans talking down on him. Enjoy Xavier Henry!!

    • HartNo Gravatar says:

      @Diehard, naw man, X.Henry is in NOLA now, not Philly. We’re gonna face him like 4 times this year & every year he plays in the Big Easy. Much like Kyle Lowsy in Houston (b’dum chhh). At least we’ve got Marc “high octane” Gasol-ina. Yeah! Marc should change his number to 103 or whatever the octane is for race cars & rocket fuel!

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