Spencer Hawes verbally agreed with Los Angeles Clippers over the weekend. So what’s he all about? We reached out to observers of the last two teams Hawes has spent full seasons on to get a clearer perspective.
1. Will there be any issues with Spencer Hawes in a backup role?
Jovan Buha, (@jovanbuha): Hawes seems thrilled to be joining the Clippers, so I don’t think his backup role will be a problem. At the same time, I thought the same thing about Glen Davis and Kenyon Martin, and both guys complained about their lack of playing time. Hawes should mesh well with Blake and DeAndre offensively, as he gives them space to cut, post-up and roam inside. Defensively, however, there are concerns — he could have trouble defending quicker 4s alongside Jordan and/or protecting the rim with Griffin. Also, he has a history of being brash and outspoken, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Hawes rubbed certain teammates or coaches the wrong way.
Jonathan Santiago, (@itsjonsantiago) Cowbell Kingdom: I think at this point in his career, no. He’s 26 years old now and the Clippers will be the third team he’s played for in two years. He’s far removed from his days in Sacramento where there was hope that he could turn into the next Brad Miller. Hawes knows who and what he is as a player, which is a complimentary piece that can space the floor with his shooting.
Tom Sunnergren, (@tsunnergren) Hoop76: Spencer Hawes, Angelenos will learn shortly, is a delightful guy. He’s goofy, affable, holds bizarre political views that seem at once both earnest and ironic–he owns toilet paper that’s emblazoned with the president’s face–and maintains a fun Twitter feed. Basically, this guy is not a malcontent. Health care reform agitates Spencer Hawes, but he’s cool with pretty much everything else. And “everything else” here almost certainly includes “coming off the bench for a contender.”
He did this recently, though not for a good basketball team. For the Sixers, actually. In 2012-13 he played in all 82 games for Philly, but started in just 40. How’d he do? He averaged 14.6 points, 9.5 rebounds and three assists per 36 minutes. He essentially had a season that was statistically indistinguishable from the ones it was bookended by. So don’t worry about Spencer. Spencer will be fine.
2. Hawes’s defense: it is what it is or salvageable?
Buha: It is what it is. Doc is one of the few coaches that can help mask a player’s defensive deficiencies, so maybe Hawes will be salvaged. But at 26, Hawes is basically fully developed. Despite his decent shot-blocking (1.4 per 36 minutes), he’s a below-average rim protector (opponents shot 53.3 percent against him, according to NBA.com/Stats). He can also be overpowered by stronger bigs and be blown by when defending pick-and-rolls and closeouts. Hawes has size and length, which helps, but his effort has always been somewhat lacking. Perhaps playing for a contender changes that.
Santiago: It is what it is. Hawes’ offensive game may have changed lots since he left the Kings several years ago, but his defense has remained relatively stagnant. Doc Rivers didn’t sign Hawes to help their defense anyways. He was clearly brought in to create mismatches from the center position with his shooting.
Sunnergren: The first one. The problem with Hawes as a defender isn’t that his instincts are shoddy or he doesn’t care. They’re fine, he does and he was coached by Doug Collins for a few seasons–who rightly has a reputation for doing very good work on that end of the floor. The problem with Hawes is that he doesn’t have the requisite physical tools to play even average D. He’s just too slow. Like a lot of really large, long-limbed people, he moves around the floor like someone with an unchecked endocrine disorder. Languorous is the word that comes to mind when I watch him lumber around. You’re going to type languorous a lot this season.
But, for what it’s worth, he’s not the sort of walking disaster that nukes any chance of operating a successful defense. He’s worse aesthetically than he is actually. The Sixers fielded top-ten defenses his first two years in town and in 2011-12 finished third in defensive efficiency. So take heart: He’s played a lot of minutes for some very good units.
3. How does Hawes project to fit in with the Clippers?
Buha: Offensively, he’s an ideal fit with either Jordan or Griffin, as both need space to operate inside. With Hawes spotting up, Griffin and Jordan can post up, crash the glass and cut to the rim with less resistance. Additionally, Hawes complements any pick-and-roll ball-handler — especially Paul — as the threat of him popping out and draining a 3-pointer will likely prevent his man from hedging hard or trapping. Defensively, there are definitely questions. Can he play with Jordan? I don’t see him being able to check quicker, smaller 4s. Will he erase Griffin’s mistakes and/or protect a potentially weak second-unit defense? I don’t know. Still, he’s a considerable upgrade on one end of the floor, and is a good addition for his price and role.
Santiago: One of the first things that came to my mind when I heard he signed with the Clippers was Byron Mullens. I think Rivers sees Hawes as an improved version of the former Clippers center. You can never have enough shooters in today’s NBA. And even though Hawes leaves a lot to be desired on the defensive end, there aren’t many other centers in the league that shoot the ball like him. Considering DeAndre Jordan is more of a paint-oriented big man, I like that Hawes gives them a different look in the middle.
Sunnergren: Well. Here’s the thing about Spencer Hawes: He’s developing into a stellar shooter. That’s not hyperbole. He was hitting a hair under 40 percent of his three point attempts when the Sixers flipped him to the Cavs at the deadline, then proceeded to drop nearly 45 percent of his triples with Cleveland. Seven footers who can do that are the rarest of birds. He’s like Andrea Bargnani if Andrea Bargnani could rebound. (And was a climate change skeptic.) Anyway, you’ll like him.