Mareese Speights: Can He Ever Be the X-Factor Philly Needs?

Ray BoydContributor INovember 3, 2010

LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 26:  Mareese Speights #16 of the Philadelphia 76ers has the ball knocked loose by Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on February 26, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2010 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
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In the Sixer's first four contests, there has been a lot of good and a lot of bad. They have played well against teams like Miami and Atlanta for considerable stretches; teams that certainly have a chance to finish in the top five in the East. However, they have slipped up twice against opponents that they can beat, losing early double digit leads to both the Indiana Pacers and the Washington Wizards.

While sifting through the play of new starting point guard Jrue Holiday, rookie Evan Turner, and the team's most talented player, Andre Iguodala, one question has entered my mind; where is Marrese Speights?

Speights dazzled at the beginning of the season last year until his production was derailed by injury. Team brass claimed that he looked good throughout camp and that he was in much better shape. Be that as it may, he is not playing under new Head Coach Doug Collins and honestly, it is not much of a surprise.

Marrese Speights is currently averaging 8 minutes per game, 1.5 rebounds per game, and only 2.3 points. Veteran Tony Battie is averaging the same amount of points, about one more rebound, and about one more minute per night. Even though those margins are not incredible, Battie's numbers should all be going to Speights.

Why is Marrese Speights not getting those extra minutes to produce? The answer can be attributed to what is indeed his fatal flaw. Marrese Speights is not tough enough. For a 6'10, 255 pound big man, Speights plays very soft.

On the offensive end of the floor, he takes way too many jump shots to be effective. Sure, he has great touch for a big man but someone needs to teach him that you play the game from the inside out. By the time he finally gets into a rhythm shooting jumpers, the game is typically out of reach.

Because of his lack of dedication to his post game, when he does end up with the ball down low, he typically falters and ends up turning it over or missing. His back to the basket game is very ineffective.

His defensive game is also affected by his lack of toughness. He can not defend the likes of any competent big man down low. He relies way too much on flopping and trying to take charges. That may work in high school and college, but in the NBA you have to be dedicated to actually playing strong defense because the referees will not be as apt to just hand over charges.

Against the Wizards, Speights flopped while defending his man in the post and was called for a blocking foul much to his dismay. Was he outside the restricted area? Yes. Were his feet set? Yes. He definitely took the charge but Speights has to learn that officials are not going to reward every little flop especially when you are 6'10, 255.

Battie is playing the minutes that Speights should have because he simply is not tough enough to take them away. It is clearly unfortunate because Speights has shown flashes of brilliance that the Sixers could really use in games. The problem is Doug Collins can not trust a player who is going to hoist jumpers constantly on one end, while flopping on the other and I do not blame him for not playing Speights.

Hopefully Speights realizes that he needs to start utilizing his size much better. He has to toughen up to get on the court. If he does, he could certainly be the X factor that this Philadelphia 76ers team needs.