Today’s Fastbreak looks at some of the best bargains in spite of a money crazy NBA free-agency period. This edition is on Los Angeles’s acquisition of Mo Speights.
It has been a record-breaking summer on all levels in the NBA, with massive contracts handed out. Guys that once made little more than the mid-level exception now have more money than they know what to do with, as their salaries have jumped to eight-figure sums.
Other players haven’t been so fortunate. Perhaps because of injuries; perhaps because of reputation. Or just maybe it’s that they haven’t quite gotten the appreciation they deserve.
Whatever the reasoning, there are those who haven’t quite gotten the money their talents deserve, and as a result, some teams have gotten lucky, picking themselves up a serious bargain contract.
Mo Speights became an unfortunate casualty of the Kevin Durant sweepstakes when the Golden State Warriors didn’t extend his contract for next season. The Los Angeles Clippers, however, filled a valuable bench need by signing the veteran to a one-year, minimum deal with a player option for the second year.
The Clippers have had notoriously unreliable bench units during Doc Rivers tenure, and Speights brings a reliable scoring presence to their team. He will slot in well in lineups alongside DeAndre Jordan and certainly Chris Paul, and will certainly have a bigger role with the Clippers after becoming less of a presence in Oakland. His defensive liabilities can be phased out by the ever improving Jordan, who has evolved into a true defensive monster.
Speights was a key bench member of the 2015 NBA Champion Warriors, posting 10.4 points and 4.3 rebounds in just 15.9 minutes. This dipped to 7.1 points and 3.3 rebounds last season, as his minutes (11.6) dipped and his field goal percentage dropped from 49 percent to 43 percent.
Although listed as a power forward, he has spent the vast majority of his minutes the last few seasons exclusively as a small-ball 5 in the Warriors flexible lineups. With Cole Aldrich now in Minnesota, he’s likely to do the same in Los Angeles.
“I see what a guy like Cole Aldrich did here, the role he had, how he changed it to being an impact player on this team,” Speights told DailyNews.com. “Free agency didn’t go as I wanted, but I feel like the opportunity here prepares me for the future. I have an opportunity to come here and play every night.”
If Doc Rivers can figure out a way to get the most of his new bench addition, Speights has the potential to be an important addition to their franchise. When Chris Paul, Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan sit on the bench, the team appears to fall in a hole. This has been remedied by better rotations, but the hard capped Clippers needed to find a way to get better. Speights can be that route.
Speights improved three point shot (39 percent last season from deep) provides important spacing when he is paired with Jordan in lineups. Make no mistake, the big man cannot start, but his high volume production against bench units mirrors the way the Oklahoma City Thunder utilize Enes Kanter; let their talented big man beat up second units. In 2014-15 the Warriors were +7.5 better with Speights on the floor.
Because of his spacing abilities, he should be a handy pick-and-pop partner for floor general Paul, who will obviously dominate the ball at all times. Steph Curry once joked that Speights was his favorite shooting guard because of skills in the midrange game.
It adds an interesting twist to the budding rivalry between the Warriors and Clippers. Speights was involved in an incident with Glen Davis, who was a Clipper at the time for those who remember:
Clippers forward Glen Davis and Warriors center Mo Speights yelled at each other with the latter having to be held back, a source said.
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) May 4, 2014
His account is now suspended, but Rivers’ son Jeremiah called out Speights after the game. Speights walked into the Clippers locker room following their game 7 defeat to the Warriors, and players had to be held back during the altercation.
— Dr. Bombay (@Tricky_Roma) May 4, 2014
Paul’s presence means Speights should thrive in the midrange game, and the question will be if Speights can make his impact felt beyond the regular season. His minutes have generally dipped in the postseason, and considering the Clippers previous depth issues they will have hope he can provide bench scoring when it matters.
Heading into training camp, the NBA world will get to see if Speights’ career arc is regressing or if he can become an important cog in the Clippers charge on the Warriors in the Western Conference this season. It’ll play a key role if Paul, Griffin, Jordan and Rivers can finally prove their doubters wrong in their quest for a Championship ring.