What Cleveland Cavaliers Need from Newcomer Spencer Hawes

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What Cleveland Cavaliers Need from Newcomer Spencer Hawes
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

The Cleveland Cavaliers kicked off the 2014 trade deadline by acquiring center Spencer Hawes of the Philadelphia 76ers.

In turn for Hawes, Yahoo Sports's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Cavs sent Earl Clark, Henry Sims and two 2014 second-round picks to the Sixers.

This is a nice addition for Cleveland, especially with the back problems plaguing Anderson Varejao. Hawes brings that combination of unique size and outside shooting to the Cavs, who should be able to use that versatility on the offensive end.

Cleveland is very much in the Eastern Conference playoff race, having won six straight games.

Here's what they'll need from Hawes to get there.

 

Varejao Insurance

Hawes started every game he played for the Sixers this season and could assume the same position in Cleveland. We don't know what Hawes' role will be with the Cavaliers yet, but there's a good chance Mike Brown could choose to start him and bring Varejao off the bench.

Whatever role Hawes fills, starter or reserve, his addition will lessen the workload for Varejao.

The last three years, Varejao has managed to play in just 81 total games while battling through multiple injuries. This season, Varejao played in the first 44 contests, but has missed seven of the last 11 games due to a back injury.

Michael Perez/Associated Press
Hawes can help ease the burden on Varejao.

Losing Varejao for any amount of time meant the Cavs were one Tyler Zeller injury away from starting Henry Sims at center. Sims is a fine young player, but certainly not anyone you want to see starting for a potential playoff team.

This is where Hawes is needed.

At 7'1" and 245 pounds, Hawes can play both power forward and center. Just 25, Hawes is already in his seventh NBA season. Zeller and rookie Anthony Bennett have been steadily improving, but having Hawes around brings some nice leadership and experience to the post. He's played in 473 regular-season games with the Sacramento Kings and Sixers, including 18 playoff playoff games with Philly.

Playing time could become an issue if Hawes, Varejao, Zeller, Bennett and Tristan Thompson are all healthy, but that's a good problem to have. It's much better than staring at a center rotation of just Zeller and Sims, anyways.

 

Spreading the Floor

One of the (many) reasons Andrew Bynum didn't work out in Cleveland was his tendency to clog the paint. The Cavs have Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, both guards who excel at splitting defenders and getting to the basket.

With Bynum rarely moving from under the hoop, driving lanes for Irving and Waiters were quickly diminished. Both play better with a mobile big like Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller who can step out and knock down a jump shot. Hawes can do the same, except his range extends to the three-point line.

This season, Hawes is shooting a cool 39.9 percent from downtown. The only player over seven-feet tall shooting better is future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki. Defenders matched up with Hawes will now have to follow him all the way out to the arc, freeing up the middle of the paint for the guards to drive into.

Hawes loves him some three-pointers, as evidenced by his shot chart this season.

NBA.com/Stats

This outside shooting should come in handy.

The Cavaliers are just 15th in NBA three-point shooting at 35.6 percent. Hawes' mark of 39.9 percent is oddly the highest on the team, better than that of Kyrie Irving (37.3), Dion Waiters (36.3) and C.J. Miles (39.3). Not often do you see a center with the best shooting accuracy of the bunch.

Acting general manager David Griffin had this to say about Hawes in an afternoon press conference that aired on Cavs.com: "He complements each of our bigs really, really well. We're a draw-and-kick team, and we need to open the floor and make it easier for those guys. When you have an open floor, guys like Luol Deng have the ability to slash a little easier because there's room for movement."

Having an additional weapon like Hawes will certainly benefit the other players—especially the penetrating guards.

 

Shot-Blocking Threat

No one's going to call Hawes a great defender, but he does offer some rim protection.

This season Hawes is averaging 1.3 blocks per game and owns a career average of 1.6 per 36 minutes of play. His 7'1" stature is an intimidating one to come across in the paint.

The Cavs are desperate for any kind of defensive threat inside. Anderson Varejao leads the team with just 0.80 blocks per game. Cleveland as a team swats just 3.9 shots away, good for 29th in the NBA.

Mike Brown should turn him into a decent enough one-on-one post defender, but keeping that shot-block total up will be key.

 

Motivation

Philadelphia started off the season better than most expected, with big wins over the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls.

Reality soon set in, however, and the Sixers resumed their strong tanking efforts.

Looking over Hawes' season, there's a big difference in production between that magical November and now.

When Philly was playing well, Hawes was leading the charge. He averaged 15.9 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and shot 47.4 percent from deep in 14 November games. Trade rumors were yet to sink in, the team was playing well and Hawes was likely very motivated.

Now sitting at 15-40, Philadelphia has made more headlines in trade proposals than in the win column.

All of this had to be wearing on Hawes, who had essentially been on the trade block all month. His play clearly suffered, as Hawes is averaging just 8.0 points and 8.3 rebounds on 31.6 percent shooting in eight February games.

Now that the trade deadline has passed and Hawes knows where he'll be for the next few months, this should help ease his mind. Hawes now gets to join a team with real playoff hopes and doesn't have to worry about what city he'll have to relocate to on a moment's notice.

The Cavaliers need that motivated, high-level play with which Hawes started off the season.

This team needs to make the playoffs badly, and getting Hawes will certainly help reach that goal.

 

All stats via ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.

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