Breaking Down How Spencer Hawes Can Complement Andrew Bynum

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistAugust 30, 2012

NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 10:  Spencer Hawes #0 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks to pass the ball as he is defended by Jordan Williams #20 of the New Jersey Nets at Prudential Center on April 10, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
Chris Chambers/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers' acquisition of Andrew Bynum in the four-team Dwight Howard trade initially appeared to be bad news for Spencer Hawes.

The seven-footer has played the center position in each of his five seasons, but there's no question he's now the second-best center on this 76ers roster. Will the 24-year-old be relegated to the bench now that the new guy's around?

Not nearly as much as you might think.'s Max Rappaport reports that head coach Doug Collins is planning for Hawes to reprise the the power forward position in much the same way another seven-footer teamed up with Bynum in Los Angeles:

“I want (Hawes) to play the Pau Gasol role with Bynum,” Collins said. “Both (Hawes and Gasol) like to play out on the perimeter because they can shoot the ball and are very good passers.”

Of course, in today's NBA, the distinctions between forwards and centers can be a bit blurred. All that really matters is where a guy likes to get his touches on the floor, whether he's better facing the basket or posting up and who he matches up with on the other team.

What position you want to call him doesn't matter all that much at the end of the day.

So, the idea of a forward-center hybrid isn't without precedent.

Hawes' penchant for avoiding the painted area has arguably been a liability in the past. And yet, with so few quality big men around, his size has made him a natural candidate to man the middle. After adding Bynum and using the amnesty clause on Elton Brand this summer, the opportunity to play a different role in the starting lineup is there for the taking.

The transition may not be an overnight success.

Hawes improved his conditioning significantly going into last season, but he needs to continue working on his mobility and quickness to keep up on the defensive end. His size will be something of a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, he and Bynum will make it difficult for opposing teams to score at will in the paint. After playing alongside the 6'9" Elton Brand, Hawes' opportunity to defend next to a legitimate shot-blocker will make him even more dangerous.

On the other hand, his one-on-one assignments won't always be a walk in the park on account of how athletic some guys in that 6'9" or 6'10" range can be. 

Fortunately, Blake Griffin plays in the Western Conference.

Whatever this move means for Philly's defense, it almost certainly means good things for its offense.

Hawes' ability to make passes from the high-post will translate into the kind of high-low action that made Bynum and Gasol such a lethal combination. Of course, it isn't just that Hawes can pass (though he did average 2.6 assists per game last season, which is pretty good for a guy his size); it's also that he's a solid mid-range shooter.

Opposing bigs have to respect Hawes' range, and that means Bynum has to contend with less size in the paint. 

In other words, Hawes can make defenders pay for helping in the paint and leaving him open, but he can also get the ball to Bynum when he has premium position and/or a mismatch.

These are the kind of options Philadelphia's offense just didn't have last season.

This team's half-court offense often became stagnant, relying upon some combination of ball movement and sixth man Lou Williams to keep up. It still managed to win a lot of games, even in the playoffs, but it wasn't always pretty.

We probably won't see an especially quick tempo this season either, but the offense will be far more dangerous with Bynum and Hawes teaming up. And, that's to say nothing of the improved perimeter shooting Nick Young, Jason Richardson and Dorell Wright all bring to the table.

Given point guard Jrue Holiday's nice range, Collins will be able to spread the floor around Bynum with a formidable platoon of marksmen.

Having a power forward with a little bit of range will create even more space for Bynum to operate.

Whether or not Spencer Hawes is the next Pau Gasol, he'll become an integral part of the 76ers' new game plan, and he certainly won't be forgotten now that Bynum's around.