Spencer Hawes Signing Addresses Several Big Needs for Los Angeles Clippers

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 5, 2014

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The Los Angeles Clippers finally addressed their biggest need, literally and figuratively.

After using their sole draft pick on C.J. Wilcox, a shooting guard out of Washington, the Clippers entered the free-agency period without a single backup big man. But now, they've remedied that with a signing that could emerge as one of the more impactful deals of the season, at least among the ones that don't involve a superstar like LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony. 

Per Adrian Wojnarowski, "Free-agent 7-footer Spencer Hawes has reached agreement on a four-year, $23 million contract with the Los Angeles Clippers, league sources told Yahoo Sports."

According to the Yahoo reporter, the deal for the big man, who spent last year playing with both the Philadelphia 76ers and Cleveland Cavaliers, will also contain some benefits for the big man. Those come in the form of a player option for the fourth season and a 15 percent trade kicker.

Appeasing Hawes with those incentives is absolutely worth it, considering the 7-footer has the ability to shore up several needs for the Western Conference contenders. 

Dire Need for Depth

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

The Clippers desperately needed to shore up their bench during the offseason. Last year, there was a virtual smorgasbord of power forwards and centers spelling Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan—Ryan Hollins, Glen Davis, Antawn Jamison, Hedo Turkoglu and more. 

However, not a single one of those options thrived, and now each and every one is a free agent who has yet to find a new home for the 2014-15 season. 

Before getting Hawes to agree to his new contract, LAC literally rostered one power forward and one center. Obviously, that wasn't going to work. Griffin and Jordan are young and athletic, but no one in the NBA can spend 48 minutes per game on the court throughout a rigorous 82-game season, especially when saddled with postseason expectations.

There are no Wilt Chamberlains in the modern-day Association. 

Depth is necessary, and Hawes was the best talent who could be had for the mid-level exception. Bleacher Report's D.J. Foster ranked him as the No. 34 free agent on the market this summer, and each of the big men above Hawes are going to command a higher price than the four-year, $23 million deal that was just inked. 

"The one major roadblock for getting a deal done in Los Angeles is the fact that Hawes is reportedly seeking close to $8 million after making $6.5 million last season with the Philadelphia 76ers and Cleveland Cavaliers, per Brad Turner of the LA Times," wrote Michael C. Jones for B/R, while calling him one of the more-believable targets. "That could be out of the Clippers' price range." 

Turns out, he wasn't out of the price range—not at all. 

Hawes won't be the last big man added to the roster. He can't be, as plenty more depth is both needed and required before LAC is ready to throw out a convincingly competitive frontcourt rotation. 

But he's as good a start as could be hoped for, given the inherent financial limitations.

New Type of Frontcourt Talent

CLEVELAND, OH - MARCH 18: Spencer Hawes #32 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots against the Miami Heat at The Quicken Loans Arena on March 18, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using th
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Jordan is a paint-bound big man, one whose offense comes almost solely from alley-oop finishes and putback attempts after corralling an offensive rebound. Griffin isn't quite so limited, but his shooting range is growing and currently limited to mid-range attempts, especially from around the left elbow. 

Eventually, Griffin will be able to knock down jumpers with consistency, and he shows the potential to expand his range to beyond the three-point arc. But Hawes is already there, as Foster explains:

It feels a little weird having Hawes this high, as he doesn't give great effort defensively like you typically want from your big men. Hawes does compensate for that a bit by being the rare stretch 5 who can draw opposing big men out and hit the three.

For teams desperate for space, Hawes could be a great third big man. He can pass pretty well, his size will allow him to rebound and he'll shoot at a high percentage.

It's hard to explain, but there's just a lot of area Hawes doesn't fill, even though he has his strengths. He doesn't rotate well or play any significant help defense, but the offensive production will likely get him paid this offseason. 

Last season, Hawes knocked down 41.6 percent of his shots from beyond the arc while taking 3.9 attempts per game. He was particularly effective during the portion of the year he spent with the Cavaliers, hitting on 44.8 percent of his triples. 

According to Basketball-Reference.com, Hawes was one of only 20 players who broke 40 percent and 3.5 attempts per game in 2013-14. Needless to say, Griffin and Jordan—who combined to go 12-of-44 from downtown (Jordan never took a shot)—were not on the list. 

In fact, Hawes was the only big man there, giving the Clippers quite the unique talent to come off their bench in a large role. As Foster mentioned, he's one of the few legitimate stretch 5s in the Association.

But it's not just about three-point shooting. Take a gander at how each big man linked with LAC fared from all zones last year:

Frontcourt Complements
At rim3-10 feet10-16 feet16-23 feetThree-Pointers
Hawes245 attempts/61.6 percent182/34.189/41.659/42.4307/41.7
Jordan473 attempts/71.9 percent103/51.52/50.0N/AN/A
Griffin637 attempts/73.6 percent353/39.9123/41.5429/37.552/25.0

That's a perfect blend. 

Jordan is the dominant around-the-rim presence, though Griffin is right up there with him. And while Blake's range extends out into those mid-range zones, Hawes absolutely thrives when he's furthest from the basket. 

Redundancy is bad. New aspects are good. 

Any guesses which end of the spectrum Hawes falls on?

Sure, he's not the greatest defender (and even that's being generous), but he's not being asked to protect the rim effectively. He's just adding a new element to an LAC attack that already finished No. 1 in offensive rating during the 2013-14 campaign, per Basketball-Reference.com. Plus, he and Griffin will make a helluva passing combination in the frontcourt. 

Hawes alone won't turn the Clippers into a deep unit, at least not when it comes to the biggest men on the pine. But he does start adding credibility to the bench, particularly because he brings a whole new feel to the team.

Preparing for Jordan and Griffin's athleticism is hard. Getting ready for that and accounting for Hawes' ability to contribute from the perimeter in a large role is harder still.  

Given the monetary limitations Doc Rivers and Co. were working with this summer, it's difficult to imagine the Clippers landing a player capable of making a bigger impact. The depth and versatility added by the Hawes signing trump any other use of the mid-level exception. 

Think Hawes is a great signing? Upset the MLE was used on him? Discuss it with me on Twitter and Facebook.


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