We've had some fun with Spencer Hawes on this site over the summer, though none of it has really been Spencer's fault. Really, the joke was on the Philadelphia 76ers, who talked up a Spencer Hawes/Kwame Brown starting frontcourt as if it were the second coming of, well, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol's time with the Los Angeles Lakers. Our biggest complaint wasn't with Hawes' play or potential, though 76ers fans have had their issues with the big man, it was the jettisoning of Elton Brand via the amnesty rule in order to make more minutes for two currently inferior players.
Now that the Sixers have recovered and dealt for Bynum, Doug Collins isn't done talking up the more potential laden part of that nearly famous Brown/Hawes duo. In an interview with the team's website, Collins pointed out he envisions Hawes as a Pau Gasol-type in a Philly offense that will extensively feature the low-post work of Andrew Bynum. Here's Doug's take:
"I want (Hawes) to play the Pau Gasol role with Bynum," Collins said. "Both (Hawes and Gasol) like to play out on the perimeter because they can shoot the ball and are very good passers."
Hold ya quips, fellas. Collins isn't off in his expectation.
Straight out of the gate it's worth pointing out that Hawes will never be as effective as Gasol in most offensive metrics, and that comparing a player of Spencer's caliber to the once and potentially future All-Star in Pau is a disservice to all involved. With that in place, there are aspects of Hawes' still improving game that could remind of Gasol in some ways. Namely, his passing from the high and low post as a 7-foot power forward.
Though a good chunk of Hawes' 2011-12 season was lost to injury and then the aftereffects of his Achilles tendon and back woes, he still managed to roar out of the gate with a strong start to the season while showcasing an impressive passing touch. Raw assist totals like Hawes' 2.6 dimes a game won't blow your ears back, but when you factor in the other elements that go into appraising a player's work in dishing the ball — his position, the pace at which his team plays, his minutes, the attention he pays toward setting others up with the assist — Hawes' assist ratio of 17.6 from last season rivals Pau at his finest.
Assist ratio is the percentage of possessions a player uses up that end in an assist, and Hawes' mark from last season is both better than Gasol's percentage from last year (17.3), his career number (16.1), and the number Gasol gave us at Hawes' current age back in 2004 (14.9). In this one area, Hawes might have Pau matched.
Of course, there are caveats.
Nothing against Los Angeles' offensive talents, but Gasol's 4 1/2 years with the Lakers haven't exactly provided him with a litany of quick-hit offensive finishers. Outside of a few months with Trevor Ariza and two years of Shannon Brown, high-flyers haven't dominated Los Angeles' rotation. Both Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum need some time on their own before putting up a shot, and Los Angeles' spot-up shooting for years has left something to be desired. This will all change, perhaps, with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash on board this season, and Philly's offense has long been worse than Los Angeles', but the Sixers have and do showcase a ton of athletic finishers just dying for that dish.
Then there's the fluke factor. Every bit of Hawes seems to scream that his solid passing touch will continue, but he also entered last season with a career assist ratio of below 12. Gasol came right out of the gate dishing away, but Spencer's marks jumped to that 17.6 mark from 11.2 in just one year. He may not dip that low again, but one-year shoot-ups like that aren't to be casually dismissed.
We ask that you don't do the same with Collins' comments. At least put on a suit and tie, before you dismiss them.
Doug has long been an either/or guy, often switching from breathless glass half-full'isms to dour takes even in the course of an offseason, season, practice or press conference. There's no middle ground with the Sixers coach, and his cheery take in the wake of essentially dealing Elton Brand for Kwame Brown was an example of such. Coaches have long brought a nice silver lining in discussing iffy transactions on record while talking to the media, but Collins sometimes takes that philosophy to an even higher level. His 1995-97 work with Otis Thorpe, for example, was the stuff of genius.
Hawes can frustrate, and his work against Boston during Philadelphia's second-round defeat last May was, frankly, a detriment to the team's cause. But as a table-setter and screener, presuming his ratios sustain, he could continue to do some impressive stuff for Bynum, Philly's remaining cutters and finishers, and Collins' offense. All he has to do is stay healthy.
For an in-depth look at Hawes' possible role alongside his new starting center (not Kwame Brown), check out Max Rappaport's look at Gasol and Bynum's high/low work at the 76ers' official website.