I hate Steve Kerr.
Am I a terrible monster? Isn't Steve Kerr a golden god, above scorn by plebes such as myself? No, he's not, but I'm a monster nonetheless, because of the grossly frivolous basis for my baseless and stupidly hyperbolic hatred.
I hate Steve Kerr because of Marreese Speights.
Here's the thing: I stupidly and hyperbolically hated Marreese Speights for years. I derided him in previews and recaps in 2013-2014, scowled at him via my television whenever he played the Warriors in years prior, and basically disrespected him in a way that only people on the internet can get away with.
And dammit if Steve Kerr didn't help expose my stupidity.
But no, forget that: I'm not gonna give Steve Kerr that credit. The credit is due to Marreese Speights himself, who had the best year of his career, played his role perfectly, was a superb teammate, posted awesome celebratory Instagram posts, single-handedly swung a ton of early and midseason games, had no conceivable qualms with his up and down minutes, kept us guessing, kept us cheering, kept us believing, and helped win the 2015 Golden State Warriors a goddamn NBA Championship.
So to recap: I'm an idiot, Steve Kerr is probably a good coach, and Marreese Speights had a season to be proud of.
Let's break down some of those points.
Had the best year of his career
Speights, 27 and in his seventh year in the league, should be hitting his prime. And statistically, he peaked almost across the board. His USG% hit an all-time high of 29.1, carrying with it highs in TS% (54.6), FT% (84.3), Assists (2.1 per 36m), Win Shares (4.0), PER (19.5), and BHPR (that's Bonehead Play Ratio, down to a career-best 3.2 per 36m). Playing 95% of his minutes as a center, he connected on 50% of his jumpers from 10-16 feet, 12% better than his career average from that distance. The man scored almost 24 points per 36 minutes, another career-high and a number that proved to be significant, especially through the first half of the season.
Yes, I cherry-picked these delightful stats. There are others that are not so glowing, including advanced comparison stats like RPM and BPM and VORP that are kind only insofar as they're not outright appalling for a bench guy playing 16 minutes per game. But, hey, I'm not out here claiming Mo is a megalithic superstar. I didn't pull the Stephen Curry assignment. I am claiming that he improved his game and that he was more than worth his weight in CBA-sanctioned gold.
Played his role perfectly
"Perfectly" is a bit much, but he provided something that most teams don't have: a shooting threat from the center position. What's more, Speights didn't just threaten: he looked that green light in the eye and took advantage of its offerings. He was brought in as a change-of-pace center for Andrew Bogut; while Bogut is a passing and screening fulcrum of the offense, Speights was a trebuchet, changing the complexion of an offensive attack that typically relied very heavily on a few individuals for running up the score. And, while not an exceptional passer, he made a valiant attempt to facilitate the continuity of a ball-jumping offensive system.
Defensively, well, hey — he has some awesome teammates.
While some roles are given, I think Steve Kerr allowed his players to show their capabilities and then adapted to create roles around players' strengths and weaknesses. Who can say whether Kerr had a plan for Mo all along, or whether he dabbled in witchcraft and/or wizardry, but my impression — one that I vaguely recall being backed up by Kerr himself — is that Mo was the best Mo he could be, very early on whenever he got the opportunity, and earned the role of Mo that only Mo could receive.
Was a superb teammate
Not a problem here in the slightest. He played the part given to him by the coaching staff, and when at time he faltered at that role, we didn't hear a peep about him worrying about lowered playing time and usage. Otherwise this was just a special team of manageable egos and seemingly universal camaraderie.
Posted awesome celebratory Instagram posts
Y'all know what I'm talking about.
Ultimately, I'm happy how stupid and wrong I was. Loving Marreese Speights is so much more fun that doing the opposite of that. He was a somewhat odd, wholly unexpected, and truly delightful key contributor to the 2015 champions. It remains to be seen whether he can continue to improve, but he's in his physical prime and is playing with a special group of guys that have his back. We may have seen the best of Speights, or perhaps he has yet to reach his apex. Either way, I'm on his side from here on out.