Country singing legend Kenny Rodgers once sang that “you’ve got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, know when to run.” These words to his classic hit song The Gambler are being used to describe card playing, but for the Cleveland Cavaliers, they could very well describe the situation surrounding potential free agent forward Marreese Speights.
Acquired in a January trade from the Memphis Grizzlies that netted Cleveland the talented power forward along with Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby and a protected future first round pick for forward Jon Leuer and a trade exception, Speights has shown that he can contribute at a high level in this league. During his half season with the Cavaliers, Speights averaged 10.2 points and 5.1 rebounds in just 18.5 minutes per game and energized a second unit that was dismal for the Cavaliers.
Speights’ solid numbers and overall game greatly contributed to what success the Cavaliers had in the second half of the season. This production will also inevitably have Speights opting out of a $4.5 million player option he has with Cleveland for the 2013-14 season so that he can capitalize in the free agent market.
That is exactly what Cavaliers fans should hope he does.
Like Rodgers song alluded to, Speights should walk away and get paid in a free agency that is thin on talented big men. For Cleveland, they should be hoping he skips the walk part and goes straight to run, because staying with the Cavaliers isn’t beneficial to either party.
Looking past the part where Speights would be an asset in terms of an affordable contract, he just isn’t a good fit in terms of the culture that the Cavaliers are trying to instill in their young core. While he could score the ball, Speights was a lazy defender last season who only worked on that side of the ball when he felt like it. While that could be said for the majority of the team, you also have to factor in that Speights is somewhat of a hothead on the court and could prove to be a major distraction for head coach Mike Brown should he pick up the option.
No, the best thing for both the Cavaliers and Speights would be for him to opt out before the June 29 deadline and go sign a solid deal with another team to give himself some security for down the road. Cleveland, though thankful of his contribution, needs more of a veteran presence out of the spot Speights would fill.
Or at the very least, a 6-foot-10 player who would rather play the paint instead of continuously hoisting 18-footers like he’s Tony Parker.