Other than Roy Hibbert, whom the Sixers had no shot at, there were not any other prized big men available via free agency. While Chris Kaman, JaVale McGee and Brook Lopez are all more respected than Hawes, none of them would have been reasonable fits and/or clear upgrades over Philly's current pivot situation.
Hawes has averaged a pedestrian 8.5 points, 5.8 boards and one blocked shot per game during his five-year career. He hasn't averaged double-digit points the past two seasons, and he's been injury-prone throughout his time in the NBA since coming out of Washington.
Yet, he's still a better fit for the Sixers.
Kaman has been just as hurt over the past two seasons while earning twice as much as Hawes' new two-year, $13 million contract (per Adrian Wojnarowski and Yahoo! Sports). While Kaman will take a pay-cut this year, it's highly unlikely the 30-year-old would have been willing to accept anything less than a three- or four-year deal worth $7-8 million per season.
McGee's youth and athleticism would have been attractive for Philly. He also earned only $2.4 million last season, meaning that a Hawes-like $6.5 million per year might have been perfectly palatable. However, there's very little likelihood that McGee would accept only a two-year deal.
Now, I'm sure the Sixers would have locked up McGee for more than that. Yet, for all of Hawes' perceived problems of athleticism and "softness," his high basketball I.Q. and floor-stretching ability are both areas of need for the 76ers.
McGee would not improve the team in either of those capacities whatsoever.
The 24-year-old McGee also is a restricted free agent, and it appears as if the Denver Nuggets have no intention of letting him walk. They didn't trade away Nene for him just to let this end half a season later.
Lopez is a hot name right now, but he's been just as weak as Hawes on the boards and defensively. He's also coming off an injury-riddled season where he only played five games and averaged 3.6 RPG. Hawes at least pulled down more than seven rebounds each contest last year.
Lopez also is a restricted free agent who looks to command a salary in the five-year, $65 million range. Not only would that be out of the Sixers' league right now, but the Brooklyn Nets could match. Plus, that's way too much money for a center who hasn't averaged more than eight rebounds in the past two seasons.
While he will never be one of the league's top big men, Hawes does have room to improve. He is only 24 years old, and his work around the basket was more consistent last year than it ever has been. (Though I understand that's not saying a whole lot.)
If Lavoy Allen, Nikola Vucevic or Arnett Moultrie can clearly wrest away Hawes' starting job, then his contract will be easy to trade if need be. It also will already be an attractive "expiring" deal next year, should the Sixers need to part ways sooner than 2014.
Hawes is a decent passer with a clear position, something the Sixers will need as long as undersized Elton Brand is still their starting power forward.
Fans might have wished for something a little sexier, but the Sixers were not going to be major players in free agency this year anyways. With Lou Williams and Jodie Meeks also to re-sign, plus Jrue Holiday's ridiculous belief that he's a max-contract player, Philly has to conserve its dollars for the time being.
By signing Hawes to only a two-year deal, the 76ers have locked in a reasonable placeholder for the short term. There weren't many better options available, and they were wise not to overspend just for a face change.