Clippers backup center Marreese Speights, who was due a salary of $2,116,955 next season, will opt out of his contract to become a free agent, according to Frank Isola.
The Clippers Mo Speights is opting out and will become a free agent.— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) May 23, 2017
Speights had a strong season off of the bench for LAC last year, appearing in all 82 games and averaging 8.7 points and 4.5 rebounds in 15.7 minutes per game in relief of All-NBA center DeAndre Jordan. Speights shot 45.5% from the field and 37.2% from beyond the arc, producing his most efficient scoring season ever. Particularly impactful was the three-point shooting, where Speights attempted 277 shots despite his previous career high being 62 attempts in a season. His effectiveness from that range is a large part of his value as a free agent.
Still, Mo’s new salary will be limited by the same factors that limited Cole Aldrich, his predecessor on the Clippers who left the team for a 3-year, $22 million payday with the Minnesota Timberwolves last summer. Like Aldrich, Speights lacks the versatility to play multiple positions, and also like Aldrich, it’s incredibly unlikely that anyone sees him as a viable starting center. Limited to a backup role, and limited to one position, it’s unlikely that Speights will demand more than the mid-level exception.
The MLE, however, is still a huge pay raise over Mo’s Clipper contract, which paid him $1.4 million last season and would have paid him just over $2.1 million this coming year. Instead, this summer’s non-taxpayer MLE will be worth a starting salary of $8.4 million, while the taxpayer MLE will be worth $5.2 million. Depending on the larger forces at play in the Clippers’ summer plans (like the free agencies of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and J.J. Redick), they could have one or the other. Ideally, the $8.4 million exception could be split, giving Speights a decent raise while preserving enough money to give another player an above-minimum deal. It would likely require the full taxpayer mid-level to retain Mo.