Marreese Speights just became a free agent. He is 1000 times more likely to be the #Warriors starting center next season than Dwight Howard.
— @feltbot on Twitter, June 29, 2013.
It’s not always pleasant having the gift of clairvoyance. I’ve been frequently accused in the last few years of being depressing on the subject of Warriors basketball. I dunno, I just keep calling them like I see them. And getting it right.
Like when I noticed that Mark Jackson was beginning to get it right, and transitioning the team towards Nellieball, at a moment when the team still had a losing record, and the fans and media were baying for Jackson’s head. An example of my negativity?
The Marreese Speights Era: Most Warriors fans are probably disappointed that the Warriors are entering the Speights Era instead of the Dwight Howard Era. I am, by contrast, absolutely delighted that Lacob never had a real chance to sign Howard (more on this below). And despite his many fleas, which I’ll get to, Speights is a pleasing signing for me. For one thing, he represents a continuation of the recent growth in Joe Lacob’s abilities as GM of the Warriors. A conceptual breakthrough on Lacob’s part.
Do you remember the first backup bigs that Lacob signed to the Warriors? Bye Bye Anthony Tolliver, hello Lou Amundson (the “best rebounder/min in the NBA.”). The Kwame Brown Era (wait, he was a starter). Dominic McGuire. All one-way players, that couldn’t hit the side of a barn on offense. Or do anything else, like catch, dribble or pass. Or most importantly, shoot free throws.
These signing were disastrous for the Warriors offense. And in particular they were disastrous for Stephen Curry, who NEEDS a big man who can score in order to flourish.
But look at the backups Lacob has signed in the last two seasons. First Carl Landry, and now Speights. Bigs who can shoot a jump shot. Pick and pop. Hallelujah.
Speights is an even better mid-range jump shooter than Landry was last season. Better shot, and with his length, better able to get it off over his defender. Check it out:
He was also 81% from the line last year, and 76% for his career.
Speights clearly can set a pick, catch and shoot. I’m not sure how good he is at pick and roll, but he can put the ball on the floor and dunk athletically as well. He can spread the floor and make defenses pay for double-teaming Stephen Curry.
This is absolutely essential in a Warriors big man, as was demonstrated amply in the playoffs last season. In case you’ve forgotten that, here’s a little commentary from the Spurs series to help you remember:
“Bogut is looking to pass everything inside.” — Jeff van Gundy.
“Bogut is playing hot potato with the ball.” — Jim Barnett.
“The Warriors are playing 3 on 5.” — Mitch Richmond.
“It’s hard to play playoff basketball when all 5 guys aren’t active, aggressive offensive threats.” — Jeff van Gundy, on the Warriors.
“When you put a lot of shooting on the floor around a great pick and roll player, the game opens up.” — Jeff van Gundy, on the Spurs.
“That’s the difference between the two teams, one team’s center — Duncan or Splitter — can make shots off the pick and roll, the other team’s center can’t.” — Jeff van Gundy.
“Bogut is not moving well at all.” — Mike Breen.
“You just wonder if he’s ever going to be healthy.” — Jeff van Gundy.
Oops. Those last two comments belong to a future post. But they represent another reason why Marreese Speights will prove indispensable to the Warriors this season.
Warriors fans seem to think that Speights will back up David Lee at power forward. That’s incorrect. If Mark Jackson gets it right, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green will back up Lee. Even though the Warriors are currently pursuing another backup center, rumored to be Jermaine O’Neal, Speights is here to play center. Which at 6-10″, 255, he can do far better than Carl Landry could.
The Fleas: There is a reason why Speights is on his fourth team in six years. He’s not the brightest bulb in the store. He will be extremely slow to learn his responsibilities on both sides of the ball, if he ever learns them. If he does learn them, he will often be too lazy to execute them. He has been curiously unmotivated and out of shape at various times in his career, and is an indifferent defender.
Doug Collins gave up on him.
It seemed that Collins didn’t trust Speights with regular minutes because he thought Speights worried too much about shooting jumpers and not enough about defense and rebounding.
It’s possible that Byron Scott gave up on him as well, judging by these quotes:
“Probably playing a little bit harder at times,” Scott said when asked what Speights needs to improve.
And the pick and roll game.
“I think at times he’ll give you that illusion that he can get out and show on pick and rolls and next time he doesn’t,” Scott said. “Just being a little more consistent more than anything.”
Clearly, Mark Jackson will have to earn every penny of his reputation as a great motivator all over again with Mr. Speights.
Aw, the hell with defense. Now that Speights is once again teamed up with old running buddy Andre Iguodala, we’ll have a little something like this to look forward to:
Andre Iguodala: Who?
Just kidding. I and my compatriots on this blog have given a fairly exhaustive analysis of the Iggy signing in the comments to the last thread.
Dwight Howard: It is astonishing to me that no one in Warriors land, not management, not fans, nor the media, understood that Dwight Howard would have been a terrible fit on the Warriors. Disastrous.
By all accounts, Howard clashed repeatedly with Mike D’Antoni and Steve Nash over running the pick and roll last season. Despite their arguments that he could be great in the system, he simply didn’t want to do it, and refused to learn how to set proper picks for Nash. Dwight Howard wants to set up in the low post, and be fed the ball, so he can be the center of all attention.
Is that the future role you want for Stephen Curry? To walk the ball up, and feed the low post? Then sit on the perimeter hoping for the ball to come back out?
Stephen Curry is a pick and roll point guard. One of the best that the divinity has ever seen fit to put on this earth. I pray to whoever’s up there that Joe Lacob receives enlightenment on this score in the near future. He seems to have received it regarding backup big men. But the temptation of the franchise big man, however ill-suited to play with one of the best guards in NBA history, continues to overpower his reasoning.
Dwight Howard went to Houston because Kevin McHale, one of the best ever in the low post, is the coach. And because Hakeem Olajuwon, perhaps the best ever, lives next door. And because Daryl Morey promised him that the Rockets would run his system. And immediately set to work shipping his pick and roll point guard, Jeremy Lin, out of town. (I wonder how James Harden, himself one of the best pick and roll guards in the league, is going to like playing with Dwight Howard, once he fully comprehends the implications.)
The Warriors never had a chance to sign Howard, despite all the media brouhaha. And Warriors fans should be thankful.
Stephen Curry lives.