After giving it some serious thought, that's the situation I think the Sixers find themselves in without Thad Young. Two chances at winning, Speights and none.
I still haven't seen any official word on Thad's injury, but this post can't wait any longer. Thad is going to miss some time, I think that's a certainty, so the question becomes, what now.
I've looked at this from every angle and I think it's safe to say that this offense cannot function against a good defensive team in the half court without Thad unless Marreese Speights is inserted at the four and he plays out of his mind. Over the past month we've seen Thad demonstrate an ability to consistently torch his man in the half court from pretty much anywhere on the floor. When they needed a hoop, Thad could get it. Without him, it's going to be up to Iguodala and Miller to do more than they're comfortable doing with the ball on offense, more than they're really capable of doing. If this team doesn't have another viable option, teams are going to clamp down on the Andres.
The good news is that for the most part this season, Speights has played out of his mind on the offensive side of the ball. He's got a pretty jumper, he's a superb finisher around the rim. He's active on the offensive glass, he seems to get how to run plays and against the zone he's very good at finding the soft spot around the foul line and hitting that jumper. At his best, he can fill the void left by Thad in a slowed-down game. I don't think there's any way we can expect the type of production we're going to need out of the position to come from Reggie Evans or Donyell Marshall, the other viable options at the four. At least not for any extended period of time.
Donyell can play in spurts and be effective, but asking more than 10-12 minutes/game out of him isn't realistic. Reggie can be productive under a very specific set of circumstances, but you never, ever want him on the floor for more than 15-20 minutes. That's negligent over-exposure. The only guy capable of playing starter-level minutes at the 4 is Speights, and he's also going to still be needed in the center rotation because I'm not sure we can count on Dalembert + Theo being good for 48 a night either.
The knee-jerk reaction is to scream at the top of our longs for Tony DiLeo to start Speights and play him thirty minutes/night, and while that is something that should happen, it isn't completely up to DiLeo. Marreese has to find a way to stay on the floor. Even if the team's plan is to start Speights at the four and give him 30 minutes split between the big positions, that plan won't mean anything if he picks up 2 fouls in the first five minutes, which he's been prone to do.
At this point, under these circumstances, we're going to have to live with whatever defensive shortcomings Speights has. What we can't live with, and what the team really can't survive is stupid fouls to compound defensive mistakes. Now, more than ever, we need Speights on the floor. I'm hoping DiLeo will be smart enough to give the kid the minutes, let's just hope Marreese is mature enough to accept them.
I'm still holding out hope that Thad will be back for the playoffs, what I'm really talking about here is the final 9 games of the season. But should the worst happen, these lessons probably apply more to the tough, grind-it-out games of the second season.