Originally written on Waiting For Next Year  |  Last updated 11/16/14
One week ago, I was in awe of Kyrie Irving’s All-Star week. This week, he may not speak of the pompatus of love, and Steve Miller Band may have spelled it a little different, but we’re going to take a look at how Marreese Speights is giving the Cavaliers elements of something they haven’t had since Shaquille O’Neal walked out the door following the 2010 season: a bruising post scoring threat. Enough with the puns; let’s go to the film. In the newcomer’s first game, he helped rally the Cavaliers from a second half 20-point deficit to beat the Bucks at The Q. Speights had a couple of difficult moves in the post that gave the Cavs the lift they needed, all while playing the entirety of the quarter over Tristan Thompson. Tristan was having a stellar game with 18 points through three quarters, so that speaks volumes of the veteran’s effort and the decision for Byron to stick with him. We start early in the fourth with Luke Walton holding the ball just inside the three-point arc on the left wing. Speights is sizing up Larry Sanders. We begin here because how often do we really see Cavalier big men fighting for position on the block and calling for the ball? Furthermore, when they do call for it, how often do we see them actually get the ball and score? Tristan Thompson’s making huge strides there, but Speights instantly commands that attention. Speights easily gets position on the thin-framed Sanders. Notice that Walton, one of the team’s most adept and willing passers, is looking into the post. Speights pins his man to his right and extends his left hand for the ball. Walton takes a dribble to the right to make an easier passing angle. THIS is good team basketball. This is the stuff that they teach you in drills in junior high. It’s also some of the fundamental stuff lost on a good chunk of NBA players. Speights gets the ball mid-post and immediately turns and faces the basket. As you’ll see later, his mid-range jumper is always an option for him and one for which the defense must account. He starts his move to the basket almost immediately. He heads towards the middle, not shying away from the contact that the shotblocker Sanders will provide. Here, Marreese looks poised to explode up with some sort of powerful move. Notice how he instead rips it through, which acts as a ball fake, and takes it across Sanders’ face, finishing off the glass. In another fourth quarter set, Speights gets the ball in the right corner with Ersan Ilyasova guarding him. This is a serious mismatch, one that Speigths will look to take advantage of in the post. So much of Speights’ threat in getting points is with the first dribble and corresponding step from the triple threat position. Whereas in the screenshot above you’ll see an open lane if Speights gets past Ilyasova, three heads turn on that first move to the basket. Again, Marreese starts his move left and finishes back to his right. Despite the help from Dunleavy Jr., it’s another high glass finish as the former Gator shows off his touch around the rim. We head to Toronto to take a look at the mid-range element. Speights gets the ball against Amir Johnson in the right corner. Amir is in close guarding position, perhaps a little too close for Speights. Again, it’s the turn and face for Speights that sets everything up. Johnson is trying to force him to the middle and is pretty close guarding position. It’s Speights with the power jab step (hard to see here, my apologies, but trust me he just planted his foot hard in the shot below) that gives him the separation to raise up and shoot it. Speights drills it from a stride inside the line. On the season, he’s shooting 44.8% from 10-ft to the three point line, which is certainly respectable for a big man. Speights isn’t known as a great 1-on-1 defender, and that much is clear to me from his short time in wine and gold on straight-up post defense. However, he is showing great communication and help defense thus far, and here are just a few examples of that. Here, we see him split the difference and hedge against a Mike Dunleavy Jr. drive to the hole, getting a deflection and eventual steal by stepping in front of the pass intended for Ekpe Udoh. The Cavs as a unit are often guilty of overhelping on driving guards, leading to ferocious dunks from the opponent bigs. This time, it’s a helpside contest of Monta Ellis on the drive that forces a wild and missed shot. And finally, it’s anticipating and stepping over to take the charge against Dunleavy Jr. These type of plays, coupled with communication in the low post help improve the Cavaliers’ defense, which as we all know by now is in desperate need of it. The per-36 stats just scream for the 6’10″ forward to see more playing time. How do these look? 16.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks. That’s better than Tristan’s equivalent stats and more scoring than Andy. It would certainly seem that Marreese will see that opportunity as a third/fourth big over the next year and a half, provided he remains in wine and gold. That’s it for this week, and until next time, the film room is closed!  
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