Who is Spencer Hawes?

Fact: Spencer Hawes is 23 years old.
Did you know that? Maybe it’s the beard, or the lack of muscle definition, but I had no idea Hawes was only 23. I was thinking 26ish.

Fact: Spencer Hawes has played at least 70 games in each of his first four seasons.
This one got me too! I thought he was the prototypical injury-prone seven footer who would never live up to expectations.

Fact: Spencer Hawes started 81 games for the Sixers last season.
I checked hoopdata, basketball-reference and mysynergysports.com. All say the same thing. 81GP/81GS.

Fact: Spencer Hawes has averaged less than two free throw attempts a game in each of his first five seasons. 
It gets worse. Per ESPN.com’s John Hollinger: Only three times since the NBA/ABA merger has a 7-footer aged 24 or younger played at least 20 minutes a game while averaging fewer than 0.17 free throw attempts per field goal attempt.

  • Spencer Hawes, 2008-09
  • Spencer Hawes, 2009-10
  • Spencer Hawes, 2010-11

Fact: Hawes worked out with Shawn Kemp during the offseason and lockout.
Hawes, the Washington native, was a big Kemp fan when he was playing in Seattle. Kemp urged Hawes to become more aggressive.

Fact: Hawes improved his rebounding rate from a career average of 5.5 to 8.8 this season.
It’s only a 12 game sample, but Hawes’ new found ability to protect the basket was a pleasant surprise early on for the Sixers.

Fact: Hawes shot 46% from the field in each of his first four seasons.
Again, only 12 games but Hawes’ field goal percentage jumped to 58% this season.

Fact: Hawes is an unrestricted free agent after this season.
This one I knew, but I wanted to prove a point.

What do we really know about Spencer Hawes? We know he currently makes $4.05 million this season and the Philly front office must make a decision on the guy. We know he was making a run at the Most Improved Player award before injuries put him in street clothes. We know at 23 and with five years in the NBA, Hawes has youth, height and experience on his side.

But we also know he is suffering from an Achilles injury and a chronic back injury that seems to flare up every few weeks. We know he started 81 games for the Sixers last season, but he only averaged 21 minutes. Can his body withstand the rigors of starting a full season and playing 30+ minutes a night? We know his numbers were unimpressive for the first four years of his career only to see a significant spike up this season.

The Sixers will likely amnesty Elton Brand and his $18 million contract after this season, opening up significant cap space in the summer. Will they take a gamble on Hawes, asking him to fill the center position for the next three or four years? How will they pay him? Will the Sixers pay him like a 23-year old center with potential or will they pay him for what he has been — a veteran 7-1 center who’s prone to drifting outside toward the perimeter?

It’s a curious case and one that needs to be played out. Hawes has missed the last eight games and although the Sixers have gone 5-3 in that span, his absence during a crucial stretch leaves even more doubt as to what kind of player Hawes is and will become. Offensively, the Sixers are a more cohesive unit with him on the floor. Minus Hawes, the Sixers are averaging nearly 11 points less a game.

He gave Sixers fans a small glimpse, then vanished. Who is Spencer Hawes?

I have no idea.

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