Once upon a time, Spencer Hawes was considered a good basketball player. Then the horseshoe mustache happened, then the man bun, and then finally and sadly this:
He spent the majority of last season luxuriating on the Clippers bench, and when he did play, he made Doc Rivers question that decision. So it’s easy to understand the skepticism surrounding the Charlotte Hornets’ acquisition of him. To be honest, I didn’t understand why their front office would acquire a player that had an almost identical skill set to lottery pick–Frank Kaminsky.
I was reminded of what Spencer Hawes could do during the team’s recent trip to China for an exhibition game against his former team, the Los Angeles Clippers. Hawes took part in some pretty big-to-big passing with Cody Zeller in their win against the Clippers.
Although, this is just one play in a preseason game, Hawes exhibited one of the two ways in which he could help the Hornets. Spencer Hawes does two things: passing and shooting. And those are two areas in which the Hornets need help. They finished with the third-lowest assist percentage while scoring the fourth-lowest points off catch-and-shoot plays in the NBA last season, per NBA.com.
To get a better indication of what Hawes can contribute, examine the 2013-2014 season, specifically his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Although the Cavs’ acquisition of Hawes was a misguided attempt to make the playoffs, it gave Hawes the opportunity to showcase his uncommon skill set.
During his time with the Cavaliers, Spencer Hawes averaged 16.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per 36 minutes while shooting 46.8 percent from the field and 44.8 percent from three per BasketballReference.com. It is very unlikely that Hawes will receive that kind of playing time in Charlotte, but he can still be of value coming off the bench. He is arguably a starting quality center, and will be playing most of his minutes against bench units.
His ability to stretch defenses will be particularly useful to the shooting-bereft Hornets. Depending on rotations and lineups, there is a chance that he can become an effective pick-and-pop partner with Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin. Opposing defenders will not be able to play off of Hawes when he screens for either Lin or Walker. If they give him space, he’ll be able to make them pay with a mid-range shot or ideally a three-pointer.
His shooting will create driving lanes for his teammates. Lin and Walker are already among the best at getting to the rim. Last season, Walker and Lin averaged 9 and 6.5 drives to the basket per game respectfully. Walker ended up scoring 344 points on drives while Lin compiled 282 points. With defenders unable to close on their drives due to Hawes’ shooting, they may be able to average even more drives.
While Spencer Hawes does give the Hornets’ offense a few more options, he negatively affects their defense with his notoriously unenthusiastic efforts on the less-sexy end.
The Cavs gave up 109.2 points per 100 possessions when Hawes was on the court. However, the Hornets are disciplined defensive team that have proven able to have a to-five stopper without a traditional rim protector. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s absence may diminish that capability, but the defense will probably hold up.
Ultimately Hawes’ presence on the team will be for the better, his blown assignments will induce bouts of head shaking, but his shooting will be necessary if the Hornets want to make a push for the playoffs.