Have The Grizzlies Made The Best Trade?
The NBA trade rumor mill has been working overtime with good reason, the players who might be traded this year are as big as they come, but the most impactful trade deal to go down during the season may have already occurred. Just where would the Memphis Grizzlies be if they hadn’t acquired the young big man Marreese Speights early in January?
In the current frenzy it can be easy to overlook the acquisition of Speights, but when All-Star Zach Randolph went down after just four games, last year’s Cinderella team was almost certainly in trouble. Two months later, the Grizzlies are third in the West and proving this team is deeper and stronger than expected.
“It has been really good for me coming in and starting,” said Speights. “Just getting a chance to play consistently.”
Speights’ impact has been more than his 8.8 points and 6.4 rebounds would indicate. In today’s NBA, teams sometimes run unusual lineups that can dramatically impact the number of minutes a big man like Speights can play.
“We have to matchup with the other team and we can’t always play two bigs,” explained head coach Lionel Hollins. “In the West, all the teams go smaller and we sometimes play Rudy Gay at four. There are nights when (Speights) goes out and gets 30 minutes and he plays extremely well.”
The extremely well has occurred a number of times in big wins for the Grizzlies. In each his four double-doubles, the Grizzlies have won the game and Speights has saved his best performances for some of their toughest opponents. A early 16 and 12 effort against the Bulls, a 19 and 9 performance versus the Pacers, and recently a 20 and 18 game in New Jersey followed by a 12 and 10 at home against Denver. Speights has scored in double-digits in seven of his past ten games as the Grizzlies have rolled up nine victories.
It’s obvious the 76ers did not anticipate the improvement in Speight’s play this season and part of the change can be attributed to his new teammates.
“It is easy playing off Marc because he’s smart, he knows how to pass and make good choices on the court,” explained Speights. “He just tells me about certain situations and certain places to be on the court where he can pass me the ball. He is one of the team leaders out there.”
“I am trying to help him with everything he needs,” said Marc Gasol. “I try to give him a hand in order to make him better.
“His passing is getting better. He is seeing the game and understanding the game better. That’s a process that takes a little time. It’s not something you can learn overnight. He’s getting better and the game is slowing down for him. He didn’t get a lot of playing time over the past couple of years but now he is back in a rhythm and I think he is feeling more comfortable, and when he plays with energy, it makes his game.”
The surging Grizzlies are about to get even better. Zach Randolph is back practicing with his teammates and his estimated two month recovery period has just ended. Of course this means an eventual return to the bench for the 24-year-old Speights.
“I have been doing that my whole career, so I will just come off the bench,” said Speights.
Gasol has a better description of what Randolph’s return means and it drives the point home about why this team was so successful last season.
“We are going to need Marreese, we are going to need Dante and Hamed inside and outside, we are going to need our whole bench,” said Gasol. “We are a whole team. We don’t have starters and bench, we have players who start the game and players who keep playing. We want to keep the same energy throughout the whole game.”
A Grizzlies team featuring Randolph will be hard to overlook come April, but the early season acquisition of Speights has proven to be very important for the Grizzlies and will make this team an even tougher out in the playoffs. Unless one of those major trades that dominate the deadline discussions goes down, the acquisition of Speights could easily prove to be one of this year’s best in season trades.