I’m going to try to refrain from making more out of this Mo Speights 32 point explosion than it is. It was the Sixers, of course, the worst team in the NBA. On a road back-to-back. In the midst of a dual whammy All-Star vacation and Trade Deadline funk. Mid-tank.
The Sixers are a team that for many reasons doesn’t feel like competing right now, and they are not competing at historic levels.
On the other hand, I do feel the need to point out that another reason Mo Speights put up a performance like he did last night, is that he is capable of putting up these kinds of performances. There are a lot of players on this Warriors roster, big and small, who could never come close to putting up a shooting performance like this. Not alone, in a locked gym, at midnight.
It’s worth pointing out, because the Warriors media don’t seem to believe that Speights is capable of anything. Not even shooting. And that opinion has been followed by the fans.
Look, Mo Speights was in the TOP FIVE of midrange shooters in the NBA last season. Not top five of big men. Top five of everybody. And he didn’t put up those stats by playing the Sixers every night.
Mo Speights can shoot it, for real.
And contrary to the opinion of — well, everyone, it seems, but me — Mo Speights can shoot the three. Anyone with the slightest scouting ability could verify this for themselves, as I did in the preseason, with a simple YouTube review, and watching him warmup before a game. The only thing that Speights needs to start burying threes with regularity is a coach who believes in him in that role, who plays him above the arc, and gives him confidence and a green light.
Shooting performances like these from Speights shouldn’t come as the utter shock and aberration that last night’s performance did. The true shock and aberration is how Mark Jackson has chosen to use Speights this season. Out of position at the power forward, and as a fifth option in the offense.
Behind Jermaine O’Neal, battling futiley in the low post .
Let me ask you a simple question: After viewing last night’s performance, on both ends of the court (let’s not forget the 8 rebounds and 3 blocks), whom do you think was the better candidate to receive 31 minutes at center in the Suns game, Speights or O’Neal? Do you think Speights could have dealt in the paint with the fearsome Suns frontline of Miles Plumlee and Channing Frye? Which player is better hedging the Dragic pick and roll? Getting up and down the court?
Giving the Warriors a chance to fight back with scoring?
If the evidence of the last two games convincingly demonstrated anything, it is this: Mark Jackson has failed miserably to utilize the weapons at his disposal this season. Miserably. His unwillingness up until this devastated-by-injury moment to utilize Speights at center, and Barnes and Green at power forward, AND RUN, has crippled the Warriors’ second unit just as surely as did its lack of a point guard before the arrival of Jordan Crawford.
Here, once again, is how I see it: Mo Speights is capable of being a valuable weapon for the Warriors, because he’s that rarest of NBA commodities, a genuine STRETCH-FIVE. A center who can completely open the floor for his team. Who can set a high pick for his deadly point guard, above the three point line.
And punish any attempt at a blitz with a dagger to the heart.
A center whom you can park in the corners, drawing his man out of the paint, and completely open the floor for one/four pick and roll. And slashers and cutters like Iggy, Barnes and Green.
A center you can play in the high post. Not the faux high post as Bogut plays it, sitting and waiting for a cut or a handoff, with his man disdainfully still camped under the basket defending the whole team. No, the real high-post, created by a real triple threat of shooting or driving as well as passing, that forces the opposing center to vacate the lane, and allows your offense to explode.
What Mo Speights is capable of becoming in the hands of a good coach is another version of Mehmet Okur. Remember him? The sharp-shooting stretch-five off the bench for the Detroit Pistons? You may not know this, but Mehmet Okur also drove his coaches crazy, with brain farts, defensive lapses, and the occasional complete failure to show up.
Mehmet Okur was also a World Champion.
Because for all that mishegas, he was a damn useful player.