Was It A Mistake To Sign Spencer Hawes?

Spencer Hawes has been out the last seven games for the Clippers, but they have hardly missed a beat. Is Los Angeles’ prized offseason acquisition a bust?

When the Clippers announced that they had signed free agent F/C Spencer Hawes to a four-year, $23 million deal, the team and fans had high hopes that Hawes’ splendid three-point shooting, and his voracious rebounding would solidify an already pretty good front-court rotation.

Even I speculated that Hawes’ shooting would open the door for more Blake Griffin dunks.

Instead, the exact opposite has happened. Griffin is taking more long two point jump shots than ever. While the exact reason that Griffin is avoiding the paint is unknown, the fact that Hawes is shooting poorly from long range (33 percent from the beyond the arc) could certainly be a factor.

In fact, from three-point range, Hawes is having his worst season since his breakout year in 2012-13, and his overall FG% is a career-low 42 percent, which is beyond bad and is the sort of mark you would expect from an elderly Kobe Bryant still chucking it up at there at a charity game in the year 2043.

There are clear questions at this point. Is it worth exploring a trade now to dump Hawes’ contract while he might still have value? Is Hawes just having an early season slump followed by an unlucky injury? Finally, why is Hawes seemingly such a bad fit?

In order to answer the first question, you need an idea about the last two. Whether this is just a blip and we should expect Hawes to get back on track is difficult to say, but we can speculate by looking at his other numbers.

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/26/2014.

Looking at his advanced numbers from last year compared to this year, you see that his rebounding rate is actually higher this year, as well as his block rate and free throw rate. The percentage of attempts from three point land has also gone up.

So even though Hawes is usually far away from the basket on offense, he has still been outstanding on the boards.

So none of Hawes’ game, other than his long distance shooting, over a very small sample size, has been affected. Considering that he is still shooting 33 percent, and that he has a multi-year track record of good shooting, and he is still in his athletic prime, I think we can conclude that this is just a temporary slump.

Unless, that is, that he is just a bad fit on this team. I have gone on record that Hawes should not be paired with Glen Davis unless absolutely necessary, as Davis’ pathetic inability to finish at the rim will cause Hawes to be blanketed by his defender.

At the same time, pairing two guys with poor shooting together, like Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, will cause lane clogging congestion that could result in Griffin taking too many jump shots.

So it is also a good possibility that Hawes just is not receiving many good looks, and it taking too many contested shots. Per basketball-reference.com, 100 percent of Hawes’ three-point shots have been assisted this year, and over his career 96 percent of his threes have been assisted.

Clearly, Hawes is not creating his own long distance shots. Not surprising, and given that Jordan Farmar, Big Baby Davis, and a motley assortment of wing players, aside from Jamal Crawford, you can surmise that Hawes is not getting those sweet wide open “slash and kick” shots he is used to.

Which leads us back to our first question, should the Clippers explore a trade with Hawes? I would lean very heavily towards “No!”, and possibly “Hell, no!”.  Hawes’ problem is simply a shooting slump combined with poor rotation decisions by coach Doc Rivers.

Los Angeles needs to pair Hawes with either Jordan or Griffin, preferably Griffin, and keep Davis off the court as much as possible. I know that Rivers’ has a long history with Davis, and seems to trust him in big moments, but Davis just does not have the offensive ability to be a useful player in any kind of extended action.

Hopefully Rivers will finally come around, Hawes will break out of his slump, and we will be naming Rivers Executive of the Year after his Clippers hoist the championship trophy in 2015.