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Clippers Player Profile: Spencer Hawes

Spencer Hawes is up next in our series of player profiles for the 2014-2015 Clippers. His excellent three-point shooting at power forward or center give the Clippers an offensive dimension that they have sought since Doc Rivers arrived last season. Is Hawes the answer to the Clippers' woeful track record with backup big men?

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Spencer Hawes Key Stats

2013-2014 (Total) 30.9 13.2 15.3 8.3 9.6 3.0 1.2 45.6 41.6
2013-2014 (Philadelphia) 31.4 13.0 14.9 8.5 9.8 3.3 1,3 45.1 39.9
2013-2014 (Cleveland) 29.8 13.5 16.3 7.7 9.3 2.4 1.0 46.8 44.8
Career 24.9 9.7 14.0 6.4 9.3 2.0 1.1 46.5 36.1

Last season, in his quest to find that coveted "stretch five" to bring off of the bench, Doc Rivers signed unrestricted free agent Byron Mullens to a two-year contract with a player option for the second season. At the time, some referred to Mullens as a "poor man's Spencer Hawes." Perhaps it is too easy to pick on Mullens, but "poor" is most certainly an understatement. Mullens turned out to be more like a broke man's Spencer Hawes.  We all know how the Mullens experiment ended. The Clippers had to pay Philadelphia at the trade deadline to take him off their hands.  Even more shocking is that Philadelphia was so intent on tanking that they traded Hawes to Cleveland and started Mullens! This season, Rivers decided to recruit the real Hawes, who signed a 4-year $23 million contract with the Clippers this summer, using the full mid-level exception.

During Media Day last month, Matt Barnes told reporters that Spencer Hawes is one of the biggest free-agent acquisitions of the offseason not named LeBron James. Objectively, Hawes is not more significant than Luol Deng (Miami), Chandler Parsons (Dallas), or Trevor Ariza (Houston). However, he certainly is the most impactful new member of the Clippers (and no, Steve Ballmer does not count).

So what does Hawes bring to the table? It may seem obvious, but he brings size. He is a true seven footer (listed at 7'1). While there is often a home in the NBA for unskilled big men due to their size alone, Hawes happens to be quite skilled as well. We all know about his great shooting touch. In his seven seasons in the NBA, he has connected on 36.1% of his shots from beyond the arc. Last season, he shot 39.9% from downtown in Philadelphia, and he hit close to 45% of his three-point attempts during his time in Cleveland after the trade deadline. Those numbers from last season are eye-popping for anybody, but they are particularly impressive for a big man. Also, he has also never shot less than 45% from the field in any regular season during his seven years in the league.

While his three-point shooting gets the most attention, Hawes is a noted passer and playmaker. Between Hawes and Blake Griffin, the Clippers have two legitimate playmaking big men on their roster, which is a tremendous asset. Last season, he averaged three assists per game. Here is a compilation of his best passes during his time as a 76er:

According to Dan Woike of the Orange County Register, Hawes' combination of both three-point shooting and playmaking will enhance the threat of a Clippers' fast break, which we all know is potent already:

"Hawes, who can easily trigger a fast break with his rebounding and passing, shouldn't sprint up the floor to the post or toward the basket. Instead, the Clippers want Hawes to trail the play, ending up behind the 3-point line, ready to fire... Rivers said if Hawes makes just one shot from deep on the fast break, it's enough to pull defenders out of the paint and open driving lanes for easier baskets — like lobs."

There is much to be excited about with Hawes, but we cannot delude ourselves into thinking he is a perfect player and that the Clippers were merely one Hawes away from winning the championship. Based on his performance in the first three preseason games, Hawes may struggle defensively. Never known for his athleticism, Hawes also has slow feet and can be burned by quicker players. No, he is not a liability on the less glamorous end of the floor, but he is no better than average. DeAndre Jordan is a much-improved post defender, but Blake Griffin is not yet a world-beater on defense.  If Hawes is closing out a game in place of Jordan for any reason (foul trouble, free throw shooting), will the Clippers be able to have a reliable last line of defense? This is not clear. In addition, although he is not a bad rebounder (he averaged 8.3 rebounds in 30.9 minutes of play last season), Hawes is not elite at corralling boards. Rebounding just happens to be one of the most glaring weaknesses for the Clippers.

During these past three preseason games, Hawes has attempted (with mixed results) several shots close to the basket using a couple of post moves. This is no accident, as the Clippers are looking to post up Hawes. Although he may not embarrass himself down low, Hawes is not likely to frighten any post defenders either. A lingering question will be whether the Clippers have a good enough interior presence with Hawes as the third big to take that next step. Only time will tell.

In discussing Hawes, we would be remiss not to mention his intangibles. As we have seen during these last three pre-season games, he plays hard. Hawes is also a fun-loving guy who appears easy to befriend. These traits will help him fit in with his teammates. The Clippers picked up on his playful side when they mentioned the goofy shorts he wore to sign his new contract:

Let's also not forget his "epic" dance moves at Crawford's wedding:


#tbt Dance moves #crawfordwedding @cp3 @naterobinson @blakegriffin32 @matt_barnes9 @deandrejordan6

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What does Hawes need to do to succeed with the Clippers? Simply put, he needs to be the Hawes that we have all seen in previous years, particularly last season. He needs to hit close to 40% of his threes, and be otherwise consistent both on offense and on defense. He has to take shots when he is open and maintain his reputation as a good passer.  We cannot have a situation in which his production plummets.

At long last, the Clippers have a legitimate NBA player to back up Griffin and Jordan. There is no question that Hawes is an upgrade over Glen "Big Baby" Davis (the primary backup power forward/center at the end of last season), Ryan Hollins, Ronny Turiaf, Lamar Odom, or Kenyon Martin. He is also more of a complete player than rebounding-machine (and fan favorite) Reggie Evans. Based on his particular set of skills, Hawes can also play well alongside Griffin and Jordan. This versatility can only help the team throw different looks at opposing defenses.

All in all, Hawes looks to be a very solid pickup for the Clippers this season. He has limited playoff experience, and it will be fascinating to see his contribution in the post-season. If all goes well, Hawes can certainly help this team take that next step to championship glory.