H: 6' 10"|
W: 245 lbs
(29 Years Old)
|RSCI: 61||Agent: Andy Miller |
High School: Hargrave Military Academy
Hometown: St. Petersburg, FL
Drafted: Pick 16 in 2008 by 76ers
Best Case: Al Jefferson
Worst Case: Jackie Butler
Speights came through with a good, but not great performance today. He showed good patience offensively in the middle of the game, opting to not force things in favor of finishing the easy plays Jamont Gordon made for him. Though Speights has great tools, he’s not a good decision maker yet, and being patient offensively will do wonders for him in the long run. When he was forcing things, he even went as far as to try and bring the ball up the floor, looking very uncomfortable as a ball handler. Early in the game he forced the issue on a couple occasions, and while that may have hurt his confidence a little, it helped him in the long run. Speights was efficient today because he was selective with his shots, not because he was making plays. Defensively, Speights showed a lot of promise, using his size to be a factor on the glass and rotating over from the weak side. Speights will need to be more active and show better awareness to make an impact during the regular season. .[Read Full Article]
More than any other player, Marreese Speights’ write-up needs to be separated into two sections: the drills, and the competitive three on three setting.
We walked away from the first day shaking our head at what we witnessed—a 6-10, 20-year old power forward who is about as skilled a big man facing the basket as you will find in this draft. “He’s really more skilled than anyone knows,“ Joe Abunassar told us. The first thing you notice is how fundamentally sound Speights’ shooting mechanics are. He’s got a natural, flawless stroke, showing small-forward like elevation creating separation from his defender, a high release point, excellent body control on his fade-aways, great technique squaring his shoulders and his hips simultaneously in perfect unison—and not surprisingly, getting unbelievable results in the process. He operates strictly on the balls of his feet as he catches and fires away, draining shot after shot from 16-18 feet with machine-like efficiency, and then proceeding to step-away and knock down college and even NBA 3-pointers with impressive accuracy as well.
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.
On the 06-07 Gator post depth chart behind NBA draftees Joakim Noah, Al Horford, and Chris Richard was a player far more productive then the trio, at least in terms of statistical output per 40 minutes. He does not have the aggressiveness of Noah, the maturity of Horford, or the strength of Richard. Instead, we found a player who had certain similarities to each of the three, and now comes in ranked as the SEC's top prospect for the 07-08 season: Sophomore Marreese Speights.
Standing 6'10 and weighing 250 pounds, we are looking at a player with ideal size for a modern dan NBA big man. Although already having substantial strength, Marreese has a frame that could easily add another 20 pounds. His wingspan is above average for a player his size, and is completely utilized on both ends of the court.
Athletically, there is very little to complain about with Speights. He combines excellent raw strength with above average leaping ability. The sophomore is excellent running the floor, both in terms of offense and defense. In terms of raw size and athleticism, there isn't a whole lot one could ask more from in a 20 year old power forward.
Now that we have gotten Speights' immense package of physical gifts out of the way, it’s time to talk about his game. It is hard for many to imagine how a player who played just 5.7 minutes per game can be the top prospect in one of the nation's strongest conferences. Well, if you are basing this strictly on statistical output, the UF freshman becomes a little more appealing as you dig deeper into the box score.
In the 5.7 minutes he played each game, he posted averages of 4.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, and .5 blocks per game. He did all of this while shooting an eye popping 67% from the field. If one were to translate those averages into per 40 minute averages, one would quickly see why there is so much buzz around Speights. Per 40 minutes, he threw up averages of 28.7 points, 18.2 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks. Not bad for a player fourth on a team's post depth chart, right?
Within eight feet of the cup, Speights showed off an uncommon set of moves for a college freshman. He has a jump hook that he shoots with either hand with solid accuracy. The footwork that he exhibits on the low blocks is reminiscent of a player much smaller, with Marreese even beginning to develop some counter moves. The touch that is shown is also excellent, as he is able to kiss the ball softly off of the glass with either hand from 8 feet and in. Those mits that kiss the ball off of the glass are also outstanding when it comes to catching the ball, evident by the tough catches made routinely by the big man.
One area of Speights' game that has a sizable amount of room for improvement is his jump-shot. The few jumpers that he took in games were off the mark, and it was clear that his comfort zone was much closer to the rim.
Defensively, there is plenty of potential in the Gator big man. He has shown to be a nice positional defender, holding his spot on the low blocks via his lower body strength. On this end, he has especially shown potential as a shot blocker, challenging shots with either hand. Speights does a good job of staying on the ground and not biting for opponents' shot fakes, while also showing off quick leaping skills and good timing. One area that Marreese does appear to struggle in is guarding players on the perimeter, however. He just doesn't seem to move his feet well enough to keep in front of opposing posts that drag him away from the basket, an area he will surely have to improve upon. Regardless, it’s not hard to imagine that getting beat up on in practice every day by the likes of Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Chris Richard prepared him exceptionally well for anything he’ll face this upcoming season.
Whether or not Speights is able to continue his production over the course of an entire game will ultimately be the key factor in whether or not he is able to bolt to the NBA sooner rather than later. With the Gators losing five players to the NBA (and one to Greece), there will certainly be more shots available within the Florida offense. While there remain many questions about how Speights will fair in his new role as the go to post player, he has all of the tools to develop into a high draft pick with a strong showing this season.