Many rookies this season were thrust right into the starting lineup and have performed very well. O.J. Mayo has been a scoring machine for the Memphis Grizzlies and Derrick Rose has been the top point guard for the Chicago Bulls. But for someone who at the beginning of the season was thought was going to have little to no impact, Marreese Speights has defied expectations in Philadelphia this season.
After seeing limited minutes early on in the season, Speights has seen an increase in minutes under interim coach Tony DiLeo and because of the injury to Elton Brand. In his last five games, Speights has been on the court an average of 19.8 minutes per game and is scoring 10.8 points per game.
Compared to the great power forwards that came out in this year's draft, Speights is right up there with the best. Michael Beasley of the Miami Heat is averaging 24 minutes per game and is scoring 13 points a game. Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves is averaging 22 minutes per game and 7.6 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game. After a hot start to the season, Jason Thompson of the Sacremento Kings is averaging 24 minutes a game and 9.2 points per game.
Even with these players averaging more minutes per game than Speights because of their teams not being as deep at the power forward position, Speights is a more efficient scorer than all of them. His 50.8% from the field is better than all three of the other power forwards listed above.
Speights has played so well that his PER, or his Player Efficiency Rating, is tops among all rookies at any position. PER is stat developed by John Hollinger of ESPN to measure how efficient a player taking into account how many minutes the player is on the court. Speight's PER is 19.61. Michael Beasley's is 14.08, Kevin Love's is 14.63, and Jason Thompson's is 12.87. Speight's PER is even better than the Derrick Rose's at 16.12 and O.J. Mayo's at 16.40.
I am not claiming that Speights is better than any of the above names, at least not yet. He still has a lot of work to go, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Speights can sometimes be a liability on defense, letting opposing players get good position down low for easy baskets. Once Speights is able to improve his defensive game, expect him to get more playing time and be a major contributer down the road.