On Independence day, the Miami Heat may have just got a little more desperate.
This week, Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra met with multiple free agents in Los Angeles to pitch the idea of joining the depleted Heat, who are facing the possibility of losing their strongest piece.
It’s not fully believable that they’ll lose their entire core — the Big Three — due to Wade making it known he would love to stay in Miami for the duration of his career. It is a strong chance, however, that their most prized, maniac athlete LeBron James, bolts elsewhere.
James was giving Riley and the Heat a specific window of time to make “roster improvements” and satisfy his playing style.
One of those possible free agents will ink a contract, but not with Miami.
7’1″ center Spencer Hawes agreed to terms with the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, in what Adrian Wojnarowski reported was a four-year, $23 million deal. That gives Hawes an average annual salary of $5.75 million that lasts through the 2017-18 season.
Now, it’s reported the Clippers are trying their hardest to get Cleveland to sign-and-trade Hawes over to them. This would be crucial, as it would save the Clippers’ mid-level exception to use for forward Paul Pierce, who wants to re-unite with his former coach. Boy, they’re still wanting age. Pierce will be turning 37 before the start of the season.
Hawes hasn’t played for a contending team throughout his entire career, since being drafted by the Sacramento Kings in 2007 — the same class that featured Kevin Durant and Greg Oden. Look at it in those terms, and realize Hawes has been playing in a crapshoot since Boston’s Big Three joined forces and won an NBA title. Seems as if it was ages ago, doesn’t it?
Sacramento, Philadelphia, and Cleveland. For a 7-footer with actual talent and not just serving as a guy clogging the lane, it doesn’t sound too attractive. He’s made the playoffs just twice, and didn’t want to be part of the ridiculous rebuilding method Sam Hinkie formed within the 76ers’ organization. I don’t think anyone wants that …. including the fans.
Hawes was dealt to Cleveland on last year’s trade deadline — mid-February — and walked into another fiasco. Kyrie Irving conversations were circling the air about him not wanting to be apart of the franchise long-term, and Dion Waiters has his little temper tantrums along the way. Hawes tried to contribute to the playoff hunt, and he wasn’t the reason they barely missed the eight seed. With his 27 games with the Cavaliers this season, he averaged 13.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, while shooting 46.8 percent from the field and 44.8 percent from the perimeter.
Give me that in a 7-footer all day long, unless I’m looking for size and an immediate presence in the post.
Hawes has the size, but he loves stretching that court, popping out for the outside buckets. I’ve compared him to Dirk Nowitzki, but that isn’t extremely fair to the Dirty German that just showed his loyalty to the Dallas Maverick. Sorry, Dirk. Sorry, Mark Cuban. But, Hawes is one of the more underrated talents in today’s game, and that’s what Doc Rivers saw on this relatively weak list of free agents available.
In reality, take out LeBron, Bosh, Wade, and Carmelo Anthony. Those are superstar names, and I’m not sold that Rivers & the Clippers were willing to part ways with Blake Griffin in order to lure one of them to Hollywood. So, that really left a list headlined by Marcin Gortat, Kyle Lowry, Lance Stephenson, Spencer Hawes, and Gordon Hayward to go after. Two of those guys (Gortat and Lowry) didn’t want to leave a great situation, and Utah has basically informed folks that they would match any offer for Hayward. Lance? We don’t have a freakin’ clue what’s going through his head. Nobody ever looks at Larry Bird in the eye and rejects him.
For the Clippers, this deal sends off signals that they’re ready to open the floor, and go beyond their traditional sets with two big men that are really only productive in the paint.
This past season, Hawes shot 40.4 percent from 25-29 feet away from the basket, completely showing off his range. That led the league for ALL centers who attempted at least 50 shots from that distance. The NBA.com database lists Suns’ Channing Frye as a center, but I’m sure 95 percent of league journalists consider him a stretch power forward. Frye was technically first, shooting 41 percent.
How about 20-24 feet?
Hawes connected on 40 of his 86 attempts last season, making him 46.5 percent effective. Blake Griffin, while he proved to have a massive improvement under Rivers’ first year coaching in Los Angeles, has still been shaky with his outside shooting. Just from 15-19 feet from the rim, Griffin shot 95-of-266. That’s only 35.7 percent efficient for the Clippers’ most popular force, and didn’t even rank him in the top 120 of that category. DeAndre Jordan? There’s zero hope for him developing a shooting touch. Accept it, and then learn to appreciate how much Chris Paul has to deal with and carry the load offensively when he’s playing with a frontcourt with little to no touch. In New Orleans, he had prime David West, who could be a killer in pick-and-pops that should’ve got them further in the playoffs.
Hawes brings the range, and offensive creativity for Rivers. We understand that the Clippers ranked first in the league in offensive rating at 109.4, and they also placed second in Net Rating, at 7.3. With a bit more options for Paul in the halfcourt, this team truly becomes a favorite against a predictable Thunder team, I believe. Just don’t trade for Paul Pierce, Doc. Don’t get sentimental with your job as President of Basketball Operations.
The Clippers will absolutely love the free throw shooting aspect to this deal, as well.
For his career, Hawes has shot 70.3 percent from the line. That number doesn’t serve him justice, as he just came off a year (Philly and Cleveland) in which he shot 78.2 percent from the charity stripe. Of all power forwards that attempted at least 150 free throws this past season, Hawes ranked 6th. It’s a rare thing anymore to see a 7-footer step to the line with pure confidence and ability to give his team points. Hawes will do that for Rivers when the situation calls for it.
Jordan has been borderline vomit worthy from the line his whole career, and still didn’t show promise last season. He attempted 4.6 free throws per night, and shot just 42.8 percent. It was a 4.2 percent increase from his production a year before, but you still can’t have him out on the floor in crunch time. Considering he’s your best defender, that’s an issue for Rivers, and a problem for winning games.
Hawes won’t bring the defensive pressure or identity that Los Angeles is hoping to gather in the frontcourt, but his offensive skillset might just override his liabilities.
For Miami, they missed out on a guy that could step into their system — an offense ran by LeBron that creates a million options as it is — and a player that wanted to be on a title contender. In the East, with the Big Three returning, they would’ve been.
As did most of these free agent deals in the past three days, this put more pressure on Riley and company to get something done. Miami may have seen the last of their No. 6 phenom.
Hawes wasn’t a Gortat or Lowry they targeted, but he was someone with size. Now the market gets very interesting for us …. but terrifying if you’re the eyes of LeBron James.
**All statistical support credited to NBA.com**
Shane Young is an NBA credentialed writer for 8 Points, 9 Seconds and HoopsHabit.com. For all Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers, or general NBA coverage, follow @YoungNBA and @HoopsHabit on Twitter.