When the Clippers lost Cole Aldrich early in free agency, it wasn't much of a surprise. He had a stellar season and a contract above the MLE, which was the most the Clippers could have offered, was pretty likely--especially when Timofey Mozgov got an absurd 4-year, $64 million deal, setting the market for centers at an unprecedented high level.
The hope for the Clippers, after using their exceptions to shore up the small forward position with Wesley Johnson and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, was that they'd be successful in bargain bin hunting at other positions. This summer more than ever, finding quality role players at the minimum would be sifting through the table scraps, and it was a very real possibility that strong veterans wouldn't be available at that price late in free agency.
Instead, the Clippers found Marreese Speights, a backup big man on the team with the best record in NBA history. Mo played 11.6 minutes a game for the Golden State Warriors last season, averaging 7.1 points and 3.3 rebounds while shooting 38.7% from deep.
The Clippers signed Speights to a 2-year minimum-salary deal. The first year of the deal will pay Speights $1,403,611. He will have a second-year player option worth $1,459,969.
Let's see the grades:
Lucas Hann: A. Speights isn't a perfect player, and he isn't a perfect fit. The Clippers will have a lot of kinks to work out with a bench unit that looks likely to be even worse defensively and on the glass than last year. That said, talent is talent, and Mo Speights is the type of high-reward gamble that you have to take when the risk is low (minimum salary). Josh Smith was in a similar situation, and even though the Clippers didn't get the high-reward, the risk was minimal (they even ended up with a TPE which helped them out with the Wilcox trade). I'm all for taking gambles on talent when the risk is this low.
Steve Perrin: A+. I really, really hate Marreese Speights, but the Clippers had to get a big on a minimum deal, and I am shocked they got one as talented as Mo Buckets. It does make you wonder why the Dubs didn't want him at the same price. Speights is a great fit next to DeAndre Jordan -- less so with Blak Griffin, but you can't have it all at the min.
Jonathan Hu: A. Great singing. Credit to Doc for spotting a veteran that prioritizes winning over money. He may have his flaws, but a backup big is never close to perfect.
Robert Flom: A-. I think a fair amount of Clippers fans are overrating "Mo" Speights a bit. His defense is bad, he loves to chuck up shots, and his efficiency is pretty bad. However, acquiring a player with his level of offensive ability for the minimum can't be knocked too badly; there are gonna be quite a few games where Mo keeps the bench unit afloat, and getting that production at the minimum is a steal.
Adithya: B+. Some people thought he'd get MLE money from someone, so his contract is a fantastic deal at the minimum. His defensive shortcomings are more glaring in a second unit where he'll be playing next to Crawford (and god forbid, Paul Pierce), but it may not matter if his offense can make up for it.
Taylor Smith: B+. I was surprised when I saw that the Clips had made this pickup, because I'd assumed that Speights would command more than the minimum in this market. He's a fine bench player, though LAC loses quite a bit of rim protection in replacing Cole Aldrich with Speights as the backup center. Still, he's a good shooter for a big and could conceivably serve as a good floor-spacer around DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin in some staggered lineups. He's got fan favorite written all over him. Plus, we're set up for some fun revenge game narratives whenever LAC takes on the Warriors.
Thomas Wood: A! The A comes from my head, and the exclamation point comes from my heart. He's the kind of player you hate when he plays for the other guy, but the player you love when he plays for you. And now he plays for us! Plus, he brings the crazy, something this roster was conspicuously short on. Remember how fun Kenyon Martin was? Reggie Evans? Matt Barnes? Lance Stephenson? Now we get Mo Buckets, and I couldn't be cheerier.