Marreese Speights needs to stay with the Cleveland Cavaliers long term, and he proved that Monday night by making all 10 of his first-half attempts from the field. He totaled 21 points and five rebounds in that same time frame, as he started in place of the ill Tyler Zeller.
Although it would have been nice to see the Cavaliers come away with a victory, Speights showed the Wine and Gold on Monday night why they should lock him up for this season. Even though he was held to four shot attempts in the second half, Speights was extremely effective in both phases of the game early on. His jumper was perfect and he got physical down low by drawing and-one calls.
Speights is averaging 12.6 points and 6.2 rebounds, while shooting 76.5 from the free throw line and 46.0 percent from the field since joining the Cavs. He also provides the spark of energy that has been lacking since Anderson Varejao went down for the season.
Since Wayne Ellington and Speights joined the Cavaliers, the tides have turned tremendously. The team has gone 9-8 in the 17 games that Speights and Ellington have donned the Wine and Gold. Many were saying that the Cavaliers are finally starting to get it together, and they credit it to the additions of two great role players.
In my opinion, Speights is the player you want to try and lock up first. After seeing both of them play on Monday night, Speights adds so many dimensions to the Cavaliers’ game plans. We all know that he can hit from anywhere inside the arc and that he can finish games well, but the former Memphis Grizzlies power forward was involved in moving the ball on most offensive possessions that ended in scores. Luke Walton and Kyrie Irving were the same way, but Speights brought chemistry to an unfamiliar territory in no time. I can’t say that same about Ellington.
Even though I would take Ellington over Daniel Gibson, I would not take him over a player like C.J. Miles – a player who is extremely streaky in two ways None of these players are locked in as permanent fixtures in the future of the team, but I think a guy like Speights is being considered in the mix. A strong last month and a half will only help his cause.
Shaun Livingston is a player who might be worthy of earning a contract next season as well. He has been the most consistent backup point guard to Kyrie all season, outlasting guys like Jeremy Pargo. Livingston’s stats may not show it, but he plays smart basketball and makes the players around him better.
Since joining the Cavs he has played about 21 minutes in his 28 games (three of which are starts), is shooting 49.2 percent from the field and 82.6 percent from the charity stripe and is averaging 5.9 points, 3.5 assists and 2.3 rebounds. These aren’t terrific stats, but his impact on the game reaches levels both on and off the court. He’s a valuable player to have around; at least until we find a long-term backup to the injury-riddled Kyrie.