Marreese Speights added a three-point shot to his repertoire this season with the Los Angeles Clippers. It led to his most efficient offensive season in the NBA.
Marreese Speights left the Golden State Warriors for the Los Angeles Clippers after a relatively down year in 2015-16. He experimented with a three-point shot, taking 62 attempts from deep and canning 38.7 percent of them. That total nearly matched his combined attempts for the rest of his career.
Speights quickly shattered those numbers in his first year with the Clippers. He fully embraced his role as a stretch-5 in the Clippers offense as he blew away his career highs for makes and attempts from deep.
Marreese Speights attempted 66.3 percent of his career three-point tries this season. He canned a solid 37.2 percent of those and morphed into a serious threat from beyond the arc. His efficiency spiked as a result of his modified shot selection. His True Shooting Percentage of 58.4 percent was his career high by a wide margin. That number is a far cry from his below-average career mark of 52.7 percent.
Marreese Speights declined his player option for 2017-18 to test free agency. While that likely spells the end of his career with the Clippers, Speights has proven his value as an offensive floor spacer. The Clippers would be wise to re-sign him if his next contract does not climb out of their price range. However, his newfound ability to shoot from deep means that some playoff team will give him far more money than the Clippers can afford to pay him.
Marreese Speights has never been a traditional big man on offense. Despite spending the vast majority of his career at center (79 percent of his career minutes per Basketball-Reference), Speights has never spent much time around the basket.
Instead, his value came from his smooth jump shot and ability to space the floor. During the 2015-16 season, Speights attempted more shots from 15-19 feet than from anywhere else on the floor–including the restricted area. While he converted on a solid 45.7 percent of those looks, his value was limited due to the relative inefficiency of those shots.
When Speights joined the Los Angeles Clippers, he dramatically increased his value by taking a few steps back on offense. He attempted most of his looks from five feet away from the basket or closer, with 168 attempts from that range. His next two most frequent zones were beyond the arc.
Speights attempted 166 shots from 25-29 feet from the basket and 122 shots from 20-24 feet out — 107 of which were from beyond the arc. His midrange jumper, always a big part of his offense, became even more valuable once he started shooting from behind the three-point line:
After taking more shots from 15-19 feet than any other area in 2015-16, those shots nearly disappeared from Speights’ repertoire this season. Marreese shot just 28 times from that range in Los Angeles. While he converted on half of those looks, he became a much more valuable offensive player by moving his shots back a few feet and launching from behind the arc.
Defensive metrics seem to be in disagreement about Marreese Speights’ value on that end of the floor. His Defensive Rating of 108.4 is higher than the Los Angeles Clippers’ team mark of 105.8. ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus, however, paints Speights as a positive force on that end, with a Defensive RPM of 1.35.
While his solid DRPM number should not be ignored, Speights’ Defensive Rating is a closer approximation of his real value on the defensive end. He is slightly undersized for a center at 6’10” and does not make up for that relative lack of size with elite-level athleticism. Speights frequently gets burned in pick-and-roll coverage and is too slow to stay in front of the wing players that are often tasked with guarding Speights on the offensive end.
In many ways, Marreese Speights is more of an oversized shooting guard than an undersized center, especially on the offensive end. Unfortunately, he does not have the defensive skills to keep up with shooting guards on the defensive end. Speights did post a career high defensive rebounding rate this season, grabbing 24.1 percent of available defensive boards. However, he does not hit the glass well enough to make up for his other defensive deficiencies.
The Los Angeles Clippers got far more out of Marreese Speights this season than they could have expected. After a down year in Golden State led him to sign a minimum contract with the Clippers, Speights unexpectedly added a three-point shot to his arsenal. That shooting touch from deep alone has resuscitated his career.
It seems somewhat obvious that Speights will not be a member of the Los Angeles Clippers next season. He smartly decided to opt out of the second year of his contract. Speights is now in line to get more than $5 million a year from a contender as a floor spacer off the bench.
Marreese Speights is not good enough on defense to be a starter for all but the worst teams in the league. However, he has dramatically increased his value by becoming an effective weapon from beyond the arc. Although his lack of playoff production may scare off some top-tier teams, Speights was also forced into a far larger role than he could handle after the injury to Blake Griffin.
Marreese Speights would be a valuable fourth big man for any playoff team. That value will, unfortunately, probably signal the end of his brief but successful career with the Clippers.
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Source: Fox Sports