As a freshman, Marreese Speights sat patiently on the bench watching his college team, the Florida Gators, compile a 35-5 record that season and become Nation Champions for back-to-back years (2006, 2007).
Speights was a big-time recruit for Billy Donovan and the Florida Gators in 2006. However, his reputation as a great college player only led him to the bench when he went to UF as a freshman. See, in front of him was a trifecta of juniors by the names of Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer – three of the team’s top four scorers that season.
In spite of not receiving too many minutes (5.7 minutes per game), Speights considered it a learning experience watching guys like Horford and Noah.
He came back in 2007 and his playing time skyrocketed with the departures of Noah and Horford. He went from averaging five minutes per game to averaging 24 minutes per game. Along with his minutes, his points went from 4.1 PPG to 14.5 PPG.
After his successful sophomore season, he left Florida and entered the 2008 NBA draft. He was then selected 16th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers. And again in Philadelphia, he found himself with mediocre minutes because of the guys in front of him. He had to compete with guys like Thaddeus Young, Elton Brand and Samuel Dalembert who had more experience than Speights.
Speights spent roughly three seasons in Philadelphia before being dealt to the Memphis Grizzlies last January in a three-team trade involving the Grizzlies, 76ers and New Orleans Hornets.
When he arrived to Memphis he received a good amount of playing time, averaging 22.4 minutes per game, but was still considered a third wheel to Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
This season his minutes have gone down and Memphis was in need to shed some salaries to avoid salary cap implications.
When Speights receives the minutes, he performs well. But the problem that has followed him from college and now to the pros is finding him the minutes he deserves on the court. There have always been guys in front of him that have more experience.
Now with him coming to Cleveland, where there is a banged-up frontcourt, you can expect him to receive 20-25 minutes per game.
In his two games with the Cavaliers, the team is 2-0 and he has averaged 13.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG and has shot 55 percent from the field.
His contract runs through 2014 and he is making $4 million per year. This is a favorable contract to any team contending this season; which is why teams have already called the Cavs to see if he is available.
Chris Grant will have to decide if he is in the future plans of this team. If he is, then they will have to pay him at the end of 2014 when he becomes a free agent. Keep in mind the Cavs have no one signed through 2014, but have team options on Anderson Varejao, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller and Alonzo Gee, which all six of them are expected to be picked up.