Cleveland Cavaliers: How Wayne Ellington And Marreese Speights Will Help Them


Earlier this week, the Cleveland Cavaliers benefited heavily from the Memphis Grizzlies’ desire to avoid the luxury tax.

In a rather one-sided trade, the Cavaliers received guards Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby and forward/center Marreese Speights in exchange for forward Jon Leuer, who hadn’t played much for the Cavaliers this season. The Cavs were also given the Grizzlies’ first-round draft pick.

Really, Cleveland made out like bandits in this deal.

But how will the new Cavaliers players help the team? Well, Selby is a bit of work in progress. He was dominant in the Summer League, sharing MVP honors with Damian Lillard, but he hasn’t done a whole lot since then. He wasn’t a rotation player at the time of the deal and while he has potential, you got the feeling that the Grizzlies weren’t exactly reeling when they decided to let him go.

He could play a role for the Cavs in the future, especially as the season goes on and the desire to try out young talent (and maybe get a solid lottery spot)  may trump the desire to gather wins. For the time being, however, I wouldn’t expect to see him get too many minutes.

As for Ellington and Speights, fans should expect to see them play large roles right away. Both players were key parts of the second unit in Memphis and both are capable of putting points on the board.

Ellington was inconsistent in Memphis, which was probably why they were willing to let him go, but at times he could be absolutely deadly on the offensive end. This was especially true in an early-season win over the Miami Heat when he exploded for 25 points and was a huge reason why they pulled off the upset.

In his final game with the Grizzlies, Ellington also played extremely well, hitting 3s and a few easy layups. The Grizzlies ended up falling 82-81 to the Indiana Pacers  in that game, but Ellington was the biggest reason why they even had a chance to begin with.

Ellington’s problem was that he would often have no impact on the game whatsoever. If you look at his game log, you’ll see a few goose eggs next those breakout performances. That’s what makes him a rather frustrating player; he can dominate one game and then become nonexistent in the next.

Still, for a team that could really use offensive threats, Ellington could help in a big way. His 3-point shooting could help the team’s second unit and if he’s on the court at the same time as Kyrie Irving, he could draw a lot of open looks when opposing defenses focus all of their attention on Irving.

It will be interesting to see how he fits into the Cavaliers system. They may be driven batty by his inconsistency, but he could also end up being the role player they sorely need.

As for Speights, I expect him to see fair amount of minutes with Anderson Varejao out for the year. For the time being, the Cavs seem to favor a starting frontcourt of Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller, but Speights would likely fit in nicely as the first big off the bench.

He’s a surprisingly good mid-range shooter–one of the few big men who’s better on jump shots than he is near the rim–and the Cavs will be able to space the floor when he’s playing. Additionally, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think he could sneak into the starting lineup at some point.

Zeller has shown potential this season, but he’s still young and if coach Byron Scott decides he wants a little more experience in his starting unit, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him favor Speights over Zeller.

The Cavaliers need a lot more work before they become the sort of team that realistically hope for a playoff berth, but this trade has made them considerably better. In Ellington and Speights, the Cavs have received two competent players who will add depth to a team that was sorely lacking it.

Cleveland is doomed to the lottery this year, but they’re a talented young team and it’s not crazy to think they could be back in the playoffs within the next two seasons. When they get there, don’t be surprised to see Speights and Ellington both playing key roles.

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