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Spencer Hawes Could Be the Steal of the 2014 NBA Free Agency Class

Spencer Hawes was not the most attractive free agent out on the market, but he could definitely be a strong piece of the puzzle to getting the Clippers to realizing their championship aspirations.

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sport

The Los Angeles Clippers have officially signed veteran center Spencer Hawes to a 4-year contract worth $23 million.  Compared to last year, the production that Hawes can give the Clippers as not only the primary back up center, but also as a spot starter should anything happen to DeAndre Jordan, is a huge improvement.

Let's get into a little background on Hawes first.

Hawes is the nephew of 10 year NBA veteran and former second round pick Steve Hawes.  The elder Hawes split time between Houston, Atlanta and Portland before he finished out his career in Seattle.  He averaged a pedestrian 8.4 points and 6.2 rebounds a game for his career.  He was never a star, but definitely worked hard to secure his spot on the roster, earning himself quality minutes on seven different playoff squads.

Spencer wasn't an immediate star when he first showed up at the Seattle Preparatory School in 2003.  He didn't make his varsity squad until his sophomore year and even then he was still raw, missing wide-open dunks and as a result feeling the wrath of the upper-classmen and coaches.

This was a positive developmental turning point for Hawes and something that will endear him to his current coaches, teammates and fans of the Clippers.  It made him work harder to get better.  That drive is still with him today.  Within an hour of waking in the morning he's in the gym working out, takes a quick break and then is right back at it.

Unfortunately Hawes isn't the most athletic person on the court and because of that he is slow on defensive rotations.  He does make up for that with an above average basketball IQ, and he can see the play develop and isn't afraid to take a charge and get you a block or two a game.

I expect Doc Rivers to work a little extra magic with him this season and would expect to see some vast improvement on the defensive end of the ball from him.  Plus, he wouldn't want to let Chris Paul down.

A big positive for Hawes is his rebounding.  He's got sneaky strength for his lanky frame.  He hides and uses all of his 245 plus pounds extremely well down in the paint.  He positions well, times his jumps well and boxes out well.  Tim Duncan was his favorite player growing up and these simple fundamentals definitely show up in his game.

As he's matured his rebounding has improved pretty much year after year, with the exception of his first year in Philadelphia when he had a hard time getting consistent minutes under Doug Collins.

For his career he's averaged 6.4 boards a game, but set a career high last season with 8.3 rebounds per game.

The offensive end of the floor is where Hawes excels.  He shoots 62% from near the basket, 40% from mid-range, 42% from long two (a lost art in the NBA) and 36% from three.

Oh, want to get a little excited?  He's a near 80% shooter from the line.  He's one big man that can for sure be on the floor to close out games without fear.  A welcome change from the last couple of years for sure.

Once again these numbers have basically improved year after year.  He's putting in the work to improve his overall game and makes him a threat from all over the floor and makes himself a near-impossible matchup.

Outside of maybe Chris Bosh there isn't a more versatile center in the entire league.  If the other team plays small he can punish them in the low block.  If the other team has a big body that likes to clog the paint or a shot blocker that likes to lurk down low then Hawes will pop outside for some open threes or easy layups for Paul.

For just under $6M a year this is a big steal in free agency.  Once all the major dominoes fall and the talking heads start looking at the pieces, this could lead to a championship.  You'll definitely see Hawes' name come up in quite a few conversations.  I'm not saying Hawes is the missing piece for the Clippers to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy next June, but he's definitely one of the names that could help the Clippers get there.