PR 2011: Spencer Hawes

Hawes shooting a midrange jumper, which works for me. Credit: The Bleacher Report

Hawes had one 10 game stretch this year where he looked like a quality NBA player. Then everything returned to normal. I don’t mean to completely insult Hawes; he’s not the worst player in the NBA, and he’s one of the 12 best on this team. That I have to affirm his competence as an NBA player, however, shows the issues that the Sixers have at center.

Spencer, if anything, is a talented player. Like Mo Speights, Hawes was always criticized for having no “motor”, that he would only play as hard as he could at certain times. While his overall numbers are bad, he’s had a few very notable performances, most during that one, inspired stretch. He put up 18-15 against the Lakers, single-handedly keeping the Sixers in a game where the rest of the team played poorly. Later in the season, in 26 minutes he had 17-10 against the undersized Rockets (though his defense admittedly was atrocious at times during that game – more on this later).

But his overall stat line tells us about a player who’s not very good, someone who hasn’t lived up to his potential mostly due to a lack of consistent effort. And although he’s in his 4th year in the league, just one year more than Speights, who I talked about as still having time to get it together, Spencer’s time is running out in Philadelphia, with free agency on the horizon.

OFFENSE

Shooting

48.9% FG, 30.8% 3FG, 46.2% FT

Hawes has more range than almost anyone that stands at 7’1″. He can hit threes, though not consistently. He functions best when he doesn’t try many threes – when he stretches the floor to around 18 feet, when he’s actually very good. For a 7’1″ guy, though, his release is very low (that is, it could be blocked by some bigs who can leap) and his shot doesn’t have much arc.

His free throw shooting is very horrible, worse than his field goal percentage. I’d expect that from a guy like Shaq, who usually shoots no more than 8 feet from the rim. For a perimeter big, whose biggest strength is his midrange shooting, that’s remarkably bad. Luckily, he almost never gets there, with his combination of not going to the basket and his lack of minutes.

Scoring

6.8 PPG, 6.3 FGA, 1.0 FTA

Simply put, Hawes isn’t a major part of the scoring offense when he’s in the game. And that’s a good thing, since his ratio of points to field goal attempts is very bad, aka the points per shot statistic. Basically, the stat shows how efficient or inefficient a player is with his shot attempts. In this case, Spencer doesn’t hit much from the line (or get there often), and most of his field goals are long twos, which aren’t usually high percentage shots. So his points per shot will be low, despite him hitting 8 threes on the year.

He scores mostly on jumpers, as the Sixers shouldn’t want him to post up, since he sucks at scoring on post moves. He gets some put backs, as his height and long arms* make for easy put-back attempts. However, his lack of physicality inside gets him few chances to make a difference there. Despite his lack of post moves, Hawes does have touch around the basket.

*Yes, seemingly everyone has long arms. The Sixers seem to like that type of player. Not included: Meeks, Young, Holiday, Turner among rotation players.

Passing and Ball Handling

1.3 AST, 1.3 TO

Hawes had a reputation coming in as a good passer for a big. He’s not bad, on the Dalembert curve at least. Since Samuel Dalembert had horrible hands*, often attributed to his background in soccer and not basketball, his ability to just pass the ball was put into question. Spencer can make some nice passes, but he’s not a playmaker ala Brad Miller, who could actually create some for teammates. He can get some assists through the offense, but isn’t a sensational passer for the position. He will sometimes take too many chances with his passing and give up the ball on occasion.

*I used to theorize that Dalembert actually didn’t have hands, but clubs on the end of his arms.

Ball-handling, meanwhile, is not a strength. As a fan, I really, really don’t want Spencer to put the ball on the floor while making a move. It never turns out well – dribbles into double teams, can’t get shots off or set up teammates well when he does, doesn’t have a post game. He can dribble up top for a give-and-go set of sorts, but not in traffic or when pressured. At his best, the ball (a) won’t touch the floor while under his possession and (b) won’t be in his hands for more than a few seconds. He’s very effective when not touching the ball much, which sounds like an insult, but it really isn’t. Taking 18-foot jumpers and making quick plays can be very valuable.

DEFENSE

Rebounding

5.5 REB, 1.5 OREB, 4.0 DREB

When looking at the low rebounding numbers for an NBA starting center, we have to take more than the basic numbers into consideration. So while 5.5 boards seems low for a starting center, in reality it’s actually pretty good. Why? Well, first he averages under 20 minutes per game, so his rebounding rate is better than 4:1, which isn’t bad (though not ideal). Two players he normally will play with (Thad Young and Elton Brand) are strong offensive rebounders, and we have strong defensive rebounders on the perimeter with Turner and Iguodala. So overall, considering all this, Spencer’s actually having a good rebounding year. He’s not big on fundamentals and boxing out, but he’s so physically gifted that he can just reach out and snag some rebounds that way. He will get out-worked on the offensive glass on occasion (when he’s not “motivated”) and physical opponents can frustrate him.

Individual and Team Defense

0.3 STL, 0.8 BLK

Hawes is not a great shot blocker, while it seems in person that he’s not a great defensive player. Some advanced stats tell a different story however, as his defensive win shares are already the highest of his career (1.9). Win shares aren’t always clear and have room for error, so don’t take that at face value. Let’s just look at everything individually. Like the theme that seems to be developing, Hawes can be outmatched physically down on the block. He’s not a great help defender, and he doesn’t block too many shots (though pro-rating his minutes to 36 would increase his blocks to 1.5 per game). However, he can still bother opponents with, you guessed it, his length. He can contest shots despite being out-of-position, which is huge compared to the other bigs on the team.

In addition to his man-defense, he has slow feet and can’t stay in front of quicker opponents. Also, his pick-and-roll defense is quite terrible, as he never seems to commit to trapping on staying back to protect the rim, so he usually gets beat in some way. The Sixers do their best to play to his strengths defensively and hide his deficiencies. Thus overall, he doesn’t actively hurt the team, which is actually more than I expected from his defense.

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