Breaking down the arrival of Spencer Hawes to Cleveland

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

 David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

A detailed look at Cleveland’s newest headband-wearing big man

The Nitty Gritty

The Cavaliers acquired 25-year old Spencer Hawes from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for a package of Earl Clark, Henry Sims, and two second-round picks in this year’s draft. Hawes is set to be a free agent at the end of the season and the rebuilding 76ers were in a position to either trade him at the deadline or lose him for nothing at season’s end. They obviously opted for the former. Earl Clark and Henry Sims can barely be registered as a loss for this Cavs team as neither was garnering consistent minutes within Mike Brown’s rotation. The second-round picks being sent out are the Cavaliers own second-rounder this year, along with the Grizzlies’ second-round pick that they acquired last season. They still own Orlando’s second-round pick this year which, due to the Magic’s awful season, is the most valuable of the bunch.

Why this move?

When David Griffin originally took over as the Cavaliers GM he was ambiguous about what type of deals he’d be looking to make at the deadline. The acquisition of Hawes represents a compromise between going all in on the rest of the season by using first-round picks to acquire a high level talent or completely cleaning house in an attempt to acquire more draft picks for yet another rebuild. Hawes will be coined a “rental” since there is no guarantee he will be in Cleveland beyond  this season, but he also represents a skill set that is a rarity in the NBA and can fit well with this Cavaliers roster.

Hawes is 7-1, but he’s not your typical center. He’s hit on 40% of his threes this season which now makes him the best long distance shooter on the Cavs from a strictly statistical perspective. In that sense he addresses one of the major problems that this Cavaliers team has faced all season on the offensive end, they lack quality shooters who can space the floor. Though Varejao and Zeller have both shown an improved mid-range game this season, the distance at which they are effective is out to about 15-17 feet. Not out to the three-point line. Both are also hesitant to let fire from even that range and will often pass up open mid-range shots that they should be taking. A player like Hawes will draw the man assigned to defend him away from the basket which opens up room in the paint for both Dion and Kyrie operate more effectively with. Hawes has shown himself to be an intelligent passer; an area in which this Cavs roster has also shown to be deficient.

Furthermore, Varejao has missed over a week with soreness in his back. The front office insists that the injury is not serious, but it also seems clear they hope to limit Varejao’s workload by reducing his nightly minutes. They wanted to do this the whole season, but with the Bynum experiment being such a failure it was never possible with the Cavaliers looking to push for the playoffs. Hawes gives this team insurance through the end of the season in case Varejao does once again miss a large chunk of time while also making it easier to implement a minute restriction on Cleveland’s favorite Brazilian.

So what’s not to like?

Hawes’ defense is literally cringe-inducing. Just go back and watch Tuesday night’s game against the 76ers. Hawes is a huge negative when it comes to preventing other teams from scoring. Despite being 7-1, he is not a great athlete thus limiting his shot blocking ability. His help defense is atrocious and often leads to opposing teams getting to the rim uncontested when he’s roaming the paint. I imagine Mike Brown’s face contorting in about six hundred different ways when watching tape on the guy and now he has to figure out how to incorporate him into his defensive philosophy. Though Hawes will never be a great defender, there is some hope that being in a different environment might motivate him to at least try. Effort is a big portion of why Hawes has consistently failed to help Philadelphia stop opposing teams this season. There is a glimmer of hope though. The 76ers have been in tank mode since the off-season and Hawes received major minutes on the defense first Doug Collins coached Philly team that took the Celtics to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2012. It’s possible that in a new environment in which the team is actually expected to win games he’ll at become less of a sieve than he’s been so far this season. I can hope, right?

One other legitimate issue with this trade is that if Andy is able to play the rest of this season either Tyler Zeller or Anthony Bennett’s minutes are going to suffer or possibly completely disappear. Both players have been on a surge as of late and it would be disappointing to see them lose playing time due to this deal. Hawes is still relatively young at 25, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be in Cleveland beyond this season. Even if the Cavaliers are able to push their way into the playoff, it is unlikely that they make it past the first round. It’s hard to swallow giving heavy minutes to a guy who could leave in the summer when there are two young big who could definitely use the minutes to develop their games.

Second-round picks – Useless? Market Inefficiency? Somewhere in between?

This trade sparked a debate on Twitter and amongst some national NBA writers over the value of second-round picks. The Cavaliers stockpiled them during Chris Grant’s tenure as General Manager, but have seen them send out four of them this season in trades. Both trades, Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes, were to acquire players who brought no guarantee of donning the wine and gold past this season. Most second-round picks in the NBA make very little impact in the pros, but on the occasion that they do become legitimate NBA players they wind up becoming a major asset for the team that drafted them. Due to the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, these late round draft picks make very little money while often also being under the control of a team for 3-4 years. The Houston Rockets currently pay Chandler Parsons a little over a million dollars to ply his trade for them. On an open market a player like Parsons would probably be making a $10 million a year.

If a team can strike gold in the second-round, they gain a ton of cap flexibility by being able to pay a major contributor to their team so little which gives them money to allocate elsewhere. This isn’t possible with first round picks because there is little room for negotiating a first rounder’s salary. Where they are selected in the first round dictates how much they are paid, and it is significantly more than second-round picks. It isn’t likely that a team will find a Chandler Parsons in the second round, but there is little risk in trying and a huge payoff when if a team hits. That being said, it’s hard to knock the Cavs for giving up the picks that they did. They still have a decent amount of them in their war chest and considering the rumblings that have surrounded the state of this locker room through much of the season it makes sense to spend picks in order to right the ship and get this team winning.

Final Verdict

The Cavaliers recent bout of injuries, particularly CJ Miles and Dion Waiters, tempers the enthusiasm this trade may have brought otherwise. A playoff push was going to be a tough task even if healthy, but with Waiters likely to miss at least two weeks, generally the minimum time of recovery for a hyperextended knee, it’s hard not to see that as a huge blow to any playoff hopes. Zeller and Bennett have helped relieve the pressure of an injured Varejao and Hawes will further that relief. It doesn’t fix the fact that as of now the Cavs are going to have to figure out how to win with only two players who can create offense off the dribble, Kyrie Irving and Jarrett Jack. Dellavedova’s energy, screen setting, and three point shooting have been huge pluses for this team at times, but he’s not a primary ball handler and can’t be counted on to run the offense alone. Brown might do well to hand the keys of the second unit over to Jack and start Karasev or Dellavedova at shooting guard until Miles is fit to return.

Still, anyone who has been watching the Cavs this season knows how much they have been screaming out for spacing. Hawes may be gone at the end of the season, but it will be a nice experiment to watch how his skill set compliments the Cavaliers young players. A lineup of Irving, Waiters, Deng, Thompson, Hawes has a lot of potential on the offensive end. Besides helping the guards as I mentioned earlier, it should help the other frontcourt players massively. Deng was extremely effective at times moving off the ball when Andy was in the lineup and Hawes’ passing out of the high post is just as proficient if not more so. Tristan has been getting himself into more isolations as of late, but since opposing teams aren’t too worried about the big man opposite him shooting they are easily able to shade over and help. This often leads to Thompson dribbling into a double team. If Thompson possess enough awareness to pass over to Hawes when opposing teams attempt to help off of the Cavs newly acquired big then it will force teams to give Thompson more space to operate in. Space is what all good offenses thrive on.

The Cavs still own a plethora of picks from other teams going forward and instead of investing in more youth via the draft they’ve invested in their current youth by trying to give them legitimate NBA players to grow with. Seeing as how the Cavs still own plenty of future draft picks it’s hard to argue with this line of thought. Picks have value based on a team’s need and this team needs to create an environment that fosters winning and development. This move helps cater to that goal. We’ll see exactly how much over the next 27 games.

  • mgbode

    in defense of Hawe’s defense, he has never been caught doing this:

    I hope that he goes back to being the below average defender he used to be. If he can do that and keep hitting his 3pters, then he can be a useful piece and someone we look to resign this offseason (or someone else decides to sign-n-trade to get from us).

  • Pat Leonard

    I wish there was a away for the addition of Hawes to mean that Tyler Zeller still gets to play a good amount of minutes while Alonzo Gee plays none. Anthony Bennett back to small forward anyone? Yeah, me neither.

  • mgbode

    you just had to go out and say it (and don’t think that Mike Brown won’t be contemplating it about 2 minutes into Gee being on the court — “Hmmm, well Bennett has lost a ton of weight since December and he’d be bigger than most of these SFs for a post advantage and he cannot be worse than Alonzo right now. I mean, can’t, right?”).

  • Pat Leonard

    Don’t quote me on this, but I think MB tested those waters recently if memory serves me right. Maybe late in the blowout win over the 76ers?

  • mgbode

    but, anything that happened in the 76er game doesn’t count. I think the his suit vendor got 2min just as a heat-check.

  • Chief Blahoo

    Not a big fan of the trade, but I guess if it works out great we’ll know to start shopping for more perimeter-oriented bigs.

  • scripty

    It’s more the point of where are the Cavs finding roster spots for those 2nd rounders. Already a very young team. At a certain point you can only have so many spots for projects.

  • Kildawg

    I think the point of acquiring Hawes was already made: Varejao is hurt worse than has been reported and likely out for the season (again). Hawes would be a good fit with Zeller to fill minutes at the 5, but he has to at least try on defense (and that’s for any team to sign him, not just the Cavs). Next season I could see a pretty deep Cavs team if Hawes and Deng re-sign, even if Varejao is not retained (although he would be a good defensive assistant).