Marreese had an interesting season. While it was evident that neither his defense nor work ethic improved over the summer, Speights came out guns blazin' on offense. In the nine games prior to his knee injury Speights was averaging 14 points (60 FG%), 7 rebounds, and 1 block in 24 minutes off the bench. Then he sprained his knee, rushed back, gained 15 pounds, and was never the same. He finished the year averaging 9 points (48 FG%) and 4 rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench, and his field goal percentage dropped to 44 after the all-star break.
It's easy to look at those numbers -- especially 15 pounds -- and assume Speights had a disappointing season, but that wasn't necessarily the case. Sure, he had a slight drop-off in offensive efficiency, but his defensive rebounding quietly improved to impressive levels (see '3 stats') and his defense remained fairly constant.
We all know Speights has the tools to be a terrific player, but the knocks on him are his attitude and work ethic. Beat writers claim they've never seen him stay after practice, Stefanski has admitted he'd like to see him work harder, and coming back from his injury absurdly out of shape confirmed all suspicions.
Red flags aside, Speights is as talented as they come. There's no doubt in my mind if Speights started and averaged 35+ minutes a game he'd put up 18-8-1 on 50% shooting, easily. From both a production standpoint and a development standpoint, I thought Speights should've started alongside Sam last year. Sam and Speights are perfect compliments, and the difference between his and Elton Brand's defense isn't significant enough to warrant starting Brand instead. Unfortunately Speights and Dalembert played less than 50 minutes together this year, and less than 200 the year before.
My hope for M16 is that the Sixers hire a coach who lights a fire under him to play defense and work hard. If he plays average enough defense to earn a starting job Speights could play a very prominent role in the Sixers future, and I'd feel pretty confident with a core of Jrue/Lou/Andre/Thad/Speights/Top 8 pick.
3 Stats + one
1. Speights' stats per 40 minutes: 21 points, 10 rebounds, 1.4 assists, .477 eFG%, 14.7 Reb%
Amare's stats per 40 minutes: 27 points, 10 rebounds, 1.2 assists, .557 eFG%, 14.2 Reb%
2. 56% of Speights' shots were jumpers (up from 48% last year).
3. Speights shot a better eFG% on jumpers this year (39%) than last year (36%).
4. Speights' defensive rebounding percentage improved from 16.3 to 19.7 (which ranks 40th in NBA, ahead of Millsap, Nene and Brook Lopez.)