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Bad Team, Good Player: Free Spencer Hawes!
Photo credit: Philly.com
Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of our Bad Team, Good Player series. If you missed the first installment check it out here.
Times are changing for NBA big men. It has been well documented that the increase in understanding of advanced statistics coupled with the incorporation of foreign players into the NBA has led to the “perimeterization” of modern NBA big men. Analysis of athletes that play a position traditionally designed for an inside post game has shifted largely from discussions of post footwork/moves to conversations about a player’s ability to space the floor. The only constant that has remained in what is expected of the NBA’s largest athletes is the expectation of meaningful rebounding numbers.
While general managers and current players are buying into this “permeterization” of NBA big men, former NBA power forwards/centers have heartily voiced their opposition. On almost a nightly basis we are reminded by them that the current generation of players has no ability to flash traditional skills honed by previous NBA giants. In fact, developed post games have become so rare that we laud players like Roy Hibbert just for being able to consistently drain a hook shot inside the painted area.
The revolution in what is asked of current NBA big men can be seen in what the Philadelphia 76’ers ask of Spencer Hawes, an often overlooked but critical component of the 76′ers. A top ten pick of the Sacramento Kings in the 2007 draft, Spencer spent a majority of his rookie season coming off the bench and learned under one of the greatest shooting big men of all time Brad Miller, the perfect tutor for a man with Hawes’ skillset.
After a trade of Miller in Hawes’ second season, Spencer was able to take over the starting center role and proved he could play meaningful minutes. Spencer was traded two years later to the 76er’s but struggled with injuries and shot selection during his first few seasons. However, with a rebuild process in full effect Spencer Hawes is once again proving capable of playing legitimate NBA minutes.
Spencer Hawes is as unique an NBA player as we have ever seen. Off the court, he is a vocal republican and has shown a willingness to express those views even to his teammates. On the court Spencer towers over most of his contemporaries standing 7’1 and weighing 245 lb. With this frame and body build it is uncanny how well Hawes’ is able to play on the perimeter.
Spencer Hawes is often referred to by pundits as a poor man’s Dirk Nowitzki. Given the historical significance the sharp shooting German has had not only on the records book but on the style of play of NBA big men this is an extremely lofty comparison. However, when you compare each player at the same points of their individual careers this comparison becomes far more compelling.
Dirk Nowitzki (Age: 25 6th NBA Season)
20.7 pts, 8.3 reb, 2.6 ast, 1.3 blk, .463 fg%, .341 3P%
Spencer Hawes (Age 25 7th NBA Season)
15.9 pts, 9.8 reb, 3.4 ast, 1.6 blk, .481 fg%, .426 3P%
The biggest disparity is obviously the difference in points per 36 minutes. This gap is likely due to the player’s individual usage rate on their teams. Dirk used almost one fourth of his team’s total possessions while Hawes uses less than one fifth of his teams.
The most surprising area of comparison is the two players three point percentage. Per 36 minutes Dirk was taking 3.6 threes a game and hitting right below the league average of 35%. Hawes on the other hand is taking 4.4 threes a game and nearly half are finding the bottom of the net. This level of shooting prowess is almost unheard of in a man of Hawes’ size. Not only is Spencer Hawes able to hit the three at a high clip he is able to do so in clutch situations.
While most of the focus of Hawes game is on his shooting prowess, Hawes has developed into one of the best passing big men in the NBA. Whether it is caused by overzealous closeout defenders our double teams in the post, Hawes has a knack for making quick decisions leading to open shots for his teammates. Hawes assist percentage throughout his career to this point is higher than the best big men of the last two decades. At a 12.9% assist rate Hawes ranks higher than Shaquille O’Neal, Dirk Nowitzki, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Dwight Howard.
The biggest weakness in Spencer Hawes game is his efforts on the defensive side of the ball. Being seven feet tall and playing his number of minutes should yield far more results for a player that plays with as much energy as Hawes. While he is a considerably better defender than some other seven footers, cough Andrea Barngani cough, you would still like to see more results from this young man.
With a player of Spencer’s offensive caliber on a tanking team questions quickly arise of what his future is in Philadelphia. Hopefully for both Hawes and basketball fans everywhere the answer involves a trade. Given his unique skill set Hawes would be a phenomenal addition to any team looking to make a playoff push/run. All the 76er’s need to do now is free Spencer Hawes.
 Based on Per 36 provided by Basketball Reference