In their first real strike of the summer, the L.A. Clippers landed Marreese Speights on a one year deal at the veteran's minimum. The 29-year-old was coming off a solid season with the Warriors, so it was a tad surprising to see him get so little on the open market. He could be a decent bench presence for the Clippers, and he brings some solid depth to LAC's frontcourt.
Speights is listed as a 6'10" center, but he can play either big man spot. He'd developed a reputation previously as an irrationally confident chucker, though last season with Golden State he was actually their fifth best three-point shooter. Fifth best doesn't sound overly impressive, but he shot 38.7% from deep, and this is the Warriors we're talking about. Only the second-best three-point shooting team (by percentage) in the history of the league. On the flip side, he only attempted 62 triples all year, and many of them came in garbage time. So take that with a grain of salt.
Speights's floor spacing prowess means he should have no problem fitting into lineups alongside any combination of DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin and Brandon Bass, each of whom prefers to operate inside the arc. Having a big that can spread the floor and create more space for Chris Paul to work his pick-and-roll magic should keep the Clips' offense humming.
The Clippers were a top tier three-point shooting team last season (6th overall), but nearly all of that came from wings or guards. Other than Paul Pierce's 75 made threes (on robust 31% shooting), no other player that regularly played either the PF or C spot hit more than Josh Smith's 18. Remember Josh Smith? Dark days, those. Speights likely won't be a focal point of the offense whenever he's out there, but he's a nice safety valve.
While he has improved his shooting stroke, the chucker label remains accurate. Marreese sported a usage rate of 27.5% last season, which was good for 22nd in the league. In fact, Speights and Utah's Trey Burke were the only players not to start a single game last season that still finished in the top 50 in USG%. The only Clipper to use more possessions himself last season was Blake Griffin. Let's just say Speights likes to make the most of his limited time on the floor.
He doesn't do much work with his back to the basket, but he's a very serviceable pick-and-popper.
That's an incredibly difficult shot that Speights makes look relatively easy. He's a rare big that does most of his work offensively outside the paint:
Speights missed over half the shots he took from the area immediately around the rim, which is almost impressively inefficient for a guy listed at 6'10". Even so, he provides LAC with some frontcourt shooting it lacked in a major way in 2015-16.
While he's a big, burly body, he's not much of a rim protector. Speights blocked just 0.5 shots a game last season, and doesn't really have the instincts to effectively patrol the paint. He'll fall for pump fakes in an attempt to block shots, leaving him flailing helplessly through the air pretty often.
This particular play is brutal. He falls for a fairly generic fake from Eric Gordon, only to let Gordon easily pivot to his right and lay it in. That's the problem with playing him at center. You typically expect your center to anchor the defense, and that's not something Speights will do. Of the players that played at least 50 games for the Warriors last season, only Brandon Rush had a worse defensive rating than Speights's 105.1.
Speights also struggles on the glass for a big. His defensive rebound rate of 19.8 was good for 80th in the league. Last year's backup center, Cole Aldrich, ranked 17th in that same category. He'll give up offensive rebounds and second chance opportunities thanks to his inclination to attempt Hassan Whiteside esque hero blocks.
Speights had almost no chance at actually blocking that shot yet tried it anyway, leaving Clint Capela open for the easy follow-up slam. The Clips were already one of the NBA's weakest rebounding teams a season ago (29th in team rebound rate), and Speights's problems on the defensive boards likely won't be doing much to help in that realm. He is decent as an offensive glass-eater (38th in the league in OREB%), though, and only DeAndre Jordan was better among Clippers in that area last season.
Thanks in large part to his defensive shortcomings and occasional issues on the boards, his role should be fairly abbreviated off the bench for the Clippers. His shooting will be helpful in spots, but early expectations for the new big man should be tempered.
All video and statistics courtesy of NBA.com/stats.