The Hawes Experiment: Bound For Success Or Failure?
When the Philadelphia 76ers were eliminated from playoff contention back in May, one of the many tasks on the off-season agenda was whether or not to re-sign Center Spencer Hawes. Hawes got off to a terrific start at the beginning of the year, but back and achilles injuries limited him to just 37 regular season games.
He finished the season averaging 9.6 PPG and 7.3 RPG, his best numbers as a member of the Sixers. While Hawes played fairly well during his time in Philadelphia, he merely just did not fit their needs at Center. Little did we all know, playing the five spot was not in Philadelphia’s primary plans for him.
In early July, the Sixers agreed to a two year, $13 million contract with the twenty-four year old. For a 7’1″, 245 lb. Center who is afraid to use his massive frame to muscle his way around down low, $6.5 million a season seemed almost unreasonably high. Fears increased when the Sixers brought in perennial disappointment Kwame Brown, who Doug Collins coached while with the Washington Wizards.
At a press conference to announce the signing, Collins envisioned Brown and Hawes on the floor together, with Hawes starting at the Power Forward position. Lucky for the Sixers, that probably will never come to fruition, as the team’s front office was able to wrangle superstar Andrew Bynum in the Dwight Howard mega deal. However, the team still feels rather confident placing Hawes at the four, and going with the “twin towers” approach.
Only question is: Will it work?
If it is to be effective anywhere, it will most certainly be offensively. Hawes has no comfort level in the paint, and the team’s offensive production has taken a hit because of hit. According to 82games.com, Hawes had exactly 900 Offensive rebound opportunities in 2011. He came down with just 78 boards, or just 8.7% of his chances. However, Hawes will certainly be the one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Bynum acquisition.
The move allows Hawes to move to the top of the key, an area where he’s most comfortable. He made 39.6% of his shots from outside the paint, his highest total in three seasons. While Bynum attracts double teams in the low post, it allows guys like Hawes to be left wide open, and he can certainly knock down the 18 foot jumper. If the Sixers elect for a lineup that can push the floor, Hawes can easily move back to his natural position at Center, and allow Thaddeus Young to come in as Power Forward.
However, this experiment may not survive Hawes’ poor Defensive play. He allows himself to be backed down in the post easily, and just refuses to be physical; nobody proved that more than Kevin Garnett in the Postseason. The smaller Garnett was able to work his way inside on Hawes, and was able to expose his inept footwork. Garnett has been a magnificent post player his entire career, but 6’9″ rookie Lavoy Allen was able to control the 36 year old better than Hawes, who could have easily used his size to his advantage. Mobility has always been a struggle for the Washington native, and in a league where the agile thrive, Hawes will struggle to shutdown smaller and quicker Power Forwards.
While the idea is creative, it seems destined for failure. Hawes lacks the Defensive tools to make a smooth transition to a new position, and while the Sixers effectively solved their problems at Center, they’ve effectively opened up a new can of worms at Power Forward. Not to mention, the move takes playing time away from Young, and stunts the growth of Allen, who came on strong in the Playoffs.
Bynum will play well over 30 minutes a night, with the plan seeming as though Kwame Brown will get the rest of those minutes. This leaves a three man rotation at Power Forward between Hawes, Allen, and Young, with rookie Arnett Moultrie likely moving to the D-League. After taking some strong criticism, Thad Young bulked up for the 2012 season, hoping to obtain the starting job. But with Hawes in his way, he’ll be forced to come off the bench. Even less can be said for Allen, whose progress could be hindered by the logjam at Power Forward.
Eventually Sixers management will realize Hawes is simply meant to play the Center position, and the team will be better because of it. Young and Allen will more effectively share minutes at Power Forward, Hawes will back up Bynum, and Kwame Brown will be left to play the role of Tony Battie on this year’s squad. Mad scientist Doug Collins can try all he wants, but this experiment will likely explode.
Jake Pavorsky is a contributor for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter: @JakePavorsky.