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2014-2015 Exit Interviews: Spencer Hawes

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Today, we continue the Los Angeles Clippers Exit Interview series with the man-bunned 7'0" Clipper center, Spencer Hawes.

"So it's loop, swoop, and pull?"
"So it's loop, swoop, and pull?"
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Name: Spencer Hawes

Key Stats: 5.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 0.7 bpg, 39% FG, 31% 3pt

Age: 26

Years in NBA: 8

Years with Clippers: 1

2014-2015 Salary: $5,305,000

Contract Status: 3 more seasons under contract with the Clippers, with a $6M player option in the final year

The Elephant in the Room:
First, let's just get get the obvious out of the way: Spencer Hawes was one of if not the biggest disappointment in the wide world of Clipper basketball this season. It wasn't just because we (and the vast majority of NBA media) all expected Hawes to be the final piece of the Clipper puzzle, and he ended up being bad at the main thing he was brought here to do (shoot), while generally looking out of place.

No, the real source of the disappointment was that we all thought we were past this. We thought we were past players coming to the Clippers and then turning into the bizarro terrible versions of themselves. When Ryan Gomes went from being a decent bench-quality player for the Timberwolves to being a walking potato for the Clippers, it was thought to be a complete aberration. And when it happened again with Jared Dudley, it was considered an equally shocking occurrence. Remember, it's uncommon for players to see huge fluctuations in their per-minute numbers. As the saying goes, players "are who they are."

But, of course, it all happened again for an unthinkable third time with Spencer Hawes. He went from putting up per-36-minute numbers of 16 pts, 9 rebs, and 45% 3pt last year, all the way down to 12 pts, 7 rebs, and 31% 3pt. In almost every single category, Hawes' numbers dipped, and usually it was by a pretty significant margin. As with Gomes and Dudley, it appeared to affect his confidence, and the problem just got worse and worse over the course of the season. It was Spencer's worst season of his career, and it's not even close.

Spencer's minutes really started dipping late in the year, when coach Doc Rivers lost trust in him. Depressingly, it all happened when Blake Griffin got hurt and Spencer was forced into the starting line-up... where he was somehow WORSE! He scored only 8 ppg and grabbed 4 rpg, while shooting 36% FG and 28% 3pt. Predictably, Hawes went from playing 17 mpg before this disastrous starting performance, to only 11 mpg after Blake came back.

Again, this was Spencer Hawes' worst season ever. But if there's a silver lining here (you have to look really hard, I'll wait), NBA history tells us that he's likely to bounce back at least a bit. Clipper history, on the other hand tells a different story. But a new logo means no more curses, right? Right.

Strengths:
After all that Spencer Hawes bashing, it's worth noting his strengths. Hawes is a very unique player, with the ability to knock down the long ball, be a solid passer, and also rebound well on the defensive end. He's a legitimate 7 footer with a decent set of post moves, and while it's probably because he can't jump over a speed bump, Hawes is a solid 1-on-1 defender in the post, where he drapes his long arms over defenders on the block without fouling or conceding the easy lay-up, unlike DJ who is a pretty miserable post defender (see: 98-year-old Tim Duncan abusing him in the post for 7 games this past April).

Weaknesses:
Now, if we're talking about Hawes' decent post defense, we should also address his absolutely terrible everything-else-defense. If switched onto a guard or a wing, unlike DJ, Spencer has trouble staying in front of the smaller player. If the ball moves from one side of the court to the other and requires any sort of rotations from Hawes, he typically ends up rotating late and causing the entire defense to break down. Great defensive players like Marc Gasol and Andrew Bogut have shown that foot speed and leaping ability aren't requisites for strong interior defense, but what they appear to have and Spencer appears to lack is that ability to read the opposing offense and predict what's going to happen.

Offensively, Hawes' major weakness is in his decision-making. Perhaps it's a confidence thing, but he never seemed to be able to decide whether to shoot the jumper, pump-fake, or drive to the basket (for what would usually end up being the normally uncommon layup-airball). Oh, also, MAN-BUN. That disgusting little hairball on the top of his head is just the worst.

Future With the Clippers:
More than likely, Hawes will be back with the Clippers next season. While he was originally considered a steal at the Mid-level Exception deal ($23M over 4 years) he was signed to this summer, he's now considered overpaid. And frankly, that's probably a good thing because it'll force Doc to give him another chance. At the end of the day, Hawes still fits the need for a big man who can shoot threes. Any sort of a bounce-back season will make him a very useful player.

Hawes can still do a lot for this ballclub, and this summer should give him a great opportunity to find his place in the system (and maybe go jogging with JJ Redick or lifting with Blake Griffin). And if he can find his place, he could still be that missing piece of the Clipper puzzle that's so desperately needed for a title run.

Favorite Moment from this Year:
Without a doubt, Spencer Hawes' greatest moment as a Clipper was when he wore this fantastic thing during his brief 9-game absence in December:

I mean look at it, it's the best. The complete opposite of that stupid ass man-bun.