How many times have the Warriors been abused by undersized, athletic PF's the last couple of seasons? The likes of Milsap, Landry, Maxiell, and Thornton turn into All-Stars when they face the Warriors. We're too small, too light, too this, too that. We have no answer on our current roster, but Marreese Speights just might be what the doctor ordered. Although he's raw, he possess the tools and traits to grow into that physical pressence in the paint the Warriors so desperately need.
Sitting on the bench on the Championship winning Florida Gators last year, he patiently waited for his turn to shine. This year he has emerged behind the shadows of Joakim Noah and Al Horford to man the paint for the Gators. Only a sophomore, he has wowed scouts and made a name for himself with his efficient and powerful play. His per-40 production is outstanding (23.9 pts, 12.8 reb, 2.8 blk). He ranks 6th overall in EFF/40 with 31.0 behind Michael Beasley (37.7), Reggie Williams, Kevin Love (32.8), Luke Harangody, and Jason Thompson (31.1).
Speights is a great prospect who will need time to mature, but whether he declares for this year's draft is still unclear. Teams will drool over his shooting touch, power and NBA ready body that oozes with potential. Whatever he decides, he will likely be a lottery pick.
Check out this game vs. Tennessee on March 5, 2008. You'll get a sense of why Speights (and teammate Nick Calathes) is so highly regarded.
NBA Postion: PF/C
College Team: Florida
Hometown: St. Petersburg, FL
High School: Hargrove Acad
NBA Comparison: Juwan Howard
Strengths: Fluid bigman with excellent length and shooting touch … Shows a lot of offensive promise with great touch on his shot within 8 feet of the basket … Very effective at the pick and roll … Has good hands and a terrific frame … He should be able to put on additional weight allowing him to play more physical … Huge wingspan gives him the length to play both the 4 and 5 positions at the next level as his body matures … Neither incredibly fast or explosive, but he is an above average athlete with excellent physical gifts … Still prone to making a careless pass here and there, but has above average vision and can develop into a quality passer … Has the length and athleticism to become a solid shot blocker … His rebounding should improve as he continues to get stronger …
Weaknesses: Struggles to create offense for himself … Really has a ways to go in developing reliable post moves … Seems to shy away from contact, even though he has the body mass and strength to bang … A bit of a finesse guy. Must add some strength and develop a nastier disposition … Added leg strength will help him to battle inside for post position … Loses focus and intensity at times, likely more to do with his age and lack of experience than anything, but it shows he’s not ready for the NBA yet … Has good touch but will need to extend his range. A consistent 12-15 foot jump would make him even more effective offensively … Has a lot of upside, but must develop better court awareness and understanding, helping on defense where to position himself for rebounds etc …
Notes: Playing and practicing alongside Al Horford and Joakim Noah as a freshman was a terrific opportunity to raise his level of play, and learn what it takes to be a pro …
Aran Smith - 2/9/2008
January 31, 2008
Over the summer, we took a slight leap of faith discussing the outrageous per-40 minute production freshman Marreese Speights (28 points, 15 rebounds, 3 blocks, 68% FG) put up playing limited minutes behind the NBA-bound trio of Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Chris Richard. Many questioned how we could go as far as to call him the #1 NBA draft prospect in the SEC after playing only 6 minutes per game. What they didn’t realize was that beyond the numbers, the video we could see of the minutes he did play was that impressive.
Fast-forward to his sophomore year, and Speights is playing quite a bit more, up to 22 minutes per game, and his per-40 production has not dropped as much as you might think. 25.5 points, 14.2 rebounds, 2.7 blocks, and 64% shooting from the field is what he’s currently averaging per-40, while his assist-rate has quadrupled, and his turnovers are down by about 15%. He’s also fouling quite a bit less. More importantly, Florida is far exceeding expectations this season in the win-loss column, sitting at 18-3 overall, and 5-1 in the SEC.
Physically, it’s not hard to tell why Speights has terrific NBA potential. He has good size at 6-10, an NBA caliber frame, super long arms, and impressive athleticism. He runs the court well, has good quickness, is extremely quick off his feet, and is notably explosive finishing around the basket. He’s a very mobile big man, fluid and coordinated, and has excellent hands to boot. Our good friend David Thorpe of ESPN’s Scout’s Inc recently told us that Speights reminds him somewhat of Al Jefferson, and this seems to be a pretty good best-case scenario comparison.
Offensively, Speights is a back to the basket center all the way, looking most comfortable playing in the paint, but also showing some small sparks of potential with his jump-shot as well. Speights doesn’t have the most diverse post-game you’ll find in the NCAA, but he does a few things extremely well. He is strong enough to establish position fairly well deep inside the paint, and has a terrific jump-hook he can hit with either hand and range out to about 5-7 feet. If closer than that, he likes to finish impressively with a powerful one-handed dunk, aided greatly by his terrific wingspan and the quickness in which he gets off his feet.
Speights can also spin-away from his matchup and knock down a turnaround jump-shot, having the talent to just throw the ball in the basket from tough angles and even under duress. He has absolutely outstanding touch around the basket, and seems to have the potential to even be a legit option in the paint in the NBA as he continues to develop his all-around game. What he lacks in fundamentals, he makes up for with outstanding natural instincts, coming up with plays at times that hint at great things that might come down the road. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the game comes pretty easy for him. His 64% shooting average from the field ranks 4th amongst all NCAA players in our 2008 or 2009 mock drafts.
As talented as Speights is around the basket, there are still quite a few things he needs to work on. For one, he doesn’t always do a very good job establishing position for himself to receive the ball in the paint, not looking quite as motivated as you’d hope to dominate his matchup on this end of the floor, and at times, just floating up and down the court aimlessly. You don’t always know what you’re going to get from him on a nightly basis in terms of his activity level. His ability to read defenses and react to his matchup also leaves something to be desired, as he does not have many real counter-moves in his arsenal, and often seems to decide what he is going to do before he even gets the ball.
Although he’s shown some sparks of being able to finish with his left hand, he still doesn’t fully trust himself here, preferring to go to his right at times even when he’s forced to go against his body to do so. He’s not immune to throwing up bad shots as you’d expect a young, somewhat late-blooming big man to (he was not the most highly touted recruit coming out of high school), not always knowing his limitations, and clearly still lacking an incredibly diverse arsenal of post-moves at his disposal at this point.
Facing the basket, we find somewhat of a mixed bag. On one hand, Speights appears to be developing a pretty nice jump-shot from 15-17 feet out, and possesses a pretty soft touch from the free throw line as well. His ball-handling skills are poor, though, meaning he’s not yet able to take advantage of his superior athleticism as much as he should when facing up against slower big men. While no one will confuse him with Vlade Divac anytime soon, he does a pretty nice job passing out of double-teams, and generally seems to be a fairly unselfish player who is able to make quick decisions with the ball in his hands—all relative to the fairly limited experience he possesses at this point.
Defensively, Speights still has a long ways to go until he’d be considered “trust-worthy” enough by an NBA head coach to see significant minutes at the next level. His fundamentals here are extremely poor, showing very little in terms of a real defensive stance, giving up excessive space in the paint, biting excessively for pump-fakes, not being very effective rotating over to help out on team defense, and doing an extremely poor job hedging the pick and roll. His commitment here leaves a lot to be desired, as he’s often fairly lazy closing out on shooters, and generally doesn’t seem to put in the greatest effort on this end of the floor. A lot of that has to do with his overall focus-level, which just isn’t always there.
Speights can block shots at this level, even if he’s not freakishly explosive, but his excellent timing, hands and wingspan really make him a factor. He has a knack for sticking his hands in the right place at the right time, and can even swat away some shots with his left hand. This same knack/timing and terrific tools show up in his rebounding too, where he can be dominant at times when he really puts his mind to it, especially on the offensive end. He’s especially impressive with his ability to tip-in the missed shots of his teammates with terrific touch, and go after his own field goal attempts with a put-back dunk. He’s already the 8th best rebounder per-40 minutes pace adjusted in the country amongst players in our database, and that’s despite the fact that he forgets to box out occasionally, and has a tendency to coast from time to time.
As you can probably guess from this write-up, Speights has some extremely unique tools at his disposal that can really get you excited if you catch him on the right night. We actually don’t have that many question marks about his combination of physical tools and skill-set (if he continues to develop his game)-- it’s more about his mental approach to the game that leaves you wondering at times. He’s been criticized by Florida’s coaching staff for some of the things we’ve outlined here, and these issues (effort, commitment, focus, etc) may extend off the court as well depending on who’s being asked. That may be a product of his youth, and could certainly improve in time depending on the type of people that are around him. We’ve already seen him make big strides in this area as the season moves on (he seems to be getting a lot of tough love from Billy Donovan and co.), and that’s why another year in college could be just what the doctor ordered, also in order to further develop his promising skill-set.
Draft Projection: Lottery
Notes: Speight's per-40-minute numbers as a freshman were off the charts. He
With the 2007 class of Gators off to the NBA, it's Speights turn to shine.(Jimmy DeFlippo/US Presswire) averaged 28.3 points and 18.2 rebounds.
Positives: Huge body with good athleticism and strength. Good low-post scorer. Efficient. Quick in the paint. Impressive low-post moves for a sophomore. Good defender and shot-blocker. Excellent rebounder. Tough.
Negatives: His conditioning is still an issue. He needs to work on his jump shot. He doesn't have a great face the basket game. Might be a little undersized to play center in the NBA.
Summary: With Al Horford and Joakim Noah in the NBA, a lot is falling on Speight's large shoulders at Florida -- and he's delivering. Like Horford and Noah, he's doing big things in limited minutes. A likely lottery pick if he declares for the draft.
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