This is Less Encouraging: Sixers Buy In for Two More Years of Spencer Hawes

This is Less Encouraging: Sixers Buy In for Two More Years of Spencer Hawes

It didn't seem likely that Spencer Hawes was gonna be part of the
Sixers' future moving forward. The team is badly in need of size, true,
but he isn't the kind of size we want—stiff, relatively immobile,
defensively cringe-worthy, post-play-bereft size, the kind of size that
basically got swallowed alive by Kevin Garnett in last year's playoffs.
If you watched that Celtics series, you were pretty confident it would
be the last time you were watching Spencer Hawes in a Sixers uniform,
and the move to get young and athletic in the draft—one of which Spencer
still is, the other of which he most certainly is not–seemed to signal
the same.

Well, shucks. It looks like the Sixers gone done and pulled a fast one
on us yet again. Not only have we re-upped with our starting big man of
last year, we're paying $13 million over two years for the privilege. No
matter what way you look at it, $13 million is a lot of money to pay
for a guy who was basically unplayable in the most important series the
Sixers have played in nearly a decade. Hell, it's a lot to pay anyone
whose starter potential you're still not confident in (five seasons into
his career!), despite the fact that the Sixers are already paying that
much to seventh man Thaddeus Young, and may very well elect to pay that
much to sixth man Lou Williams as well.

So what's the justification here? Well, Spencer is still young (24 years
old) and a legitimate seven-footer, a pair of commodities which has
certainly gotten players less talented than he more money and patience
in the past. And you might recall that for a stretch there early last
year, before he got hurt (oh yeah, there's an injury history too, but
let's not even worry about that for the moment), where he was playing
like a legitimate Most Improved Player candidate, posting double-digit Game Scores
in each of the team's first six games. He was hitting his jumper with
stunning regularity, he was passing out of the high post and hitting
teammates open under the basket, he was crashing the boards and grabbing
rebounds with authority. He might have even dunked once.
 
He would post only seven more such scores for the remainder of the
season, however. Shortly after returning from injury, the jumper stopped
falling, the passes became riskier and he started getting badly
out-muscled under the net, grabbing double-digit rebounds only once in
his last 18 games. As his numbers and minutes began to plummet, we were
left to wonder whether the early hot streak's cooling off was due to
injury or just inevitable regression to the mean.

(He also had two straight 20-point scoring outings against the Bulls in
the playoffs—most of which came after Joakim Noah go hurt—leading to a
lot of "Spencer Hawes gonna make himself some money this off-season"
type peanut gallery comments. I think we all assumed his ensuing play in
that series and then against the Celtics more than cancelled that
stretch out, but maybe not.)

Is the contract justifiable based on the potential Spencer has shown in
those stretches? No, I don't think it is—you could wait on a player like
Hawes forever waiting for him to grow into the player he occasionally
shows tantalizing glimpses of being, and in fact, the Sixers are already
committed to doing just that for the similarly frustrating Evan Turner
for at least a couple more years. At least Evan is still just a Junior
in the NBA—Hawes has been around for five seasons now, and has never
shown the ability to be a consistent contributor on a good team,
especially not against the top level of competition. It's probably not
gonna happen for Spence—especially on the defensive end, where he has
repeatedly proven to be a horrendous liability—and the Sixers can't
afford to spend $6.5 mil a year betting on the 20% chance that it does.
They have too many holes that, even with Spencer in tow, still badly
need addressing.

The only thing you can really console yourself with about this contract (unless you're Michael Levin)
is that it's only for two years. All of the Sixers' contracts except
for Thaddeus Young could be off the books by that point two years from
now, so maybe the Sixers front office—whoever's running it these days–is
setting the end of the 2013-14 season as a chance to hit "reset" on the
team if it doesn't work out as currently constituted. And frankly, I'd
accept this Hawes deal if it meant that the Sixers were going to let Lou
Williams walk, and still try to do some dealing with Iguodala and
Brand. But if the team does re-sign Lou, for something like five years,
$35 mil, and then doesn't do dick about 'Dre and Elton, and yet again
enters the new season with basically the same roster...well, this is
might be a pretty tough team to root for next year.

Then again, maybe Spence just pretended to be bad for most of the second
half of last year just to drive his value down so the Sixers would be
able to get him for cheap. You never know!

Eagles mailbag: Pederson as a coach; running backs; Spikes

052616-barner-pkg-webbestvideo3_1920x1080_693900867592.jpg

Eagles mailbag: Pederson as a coach; running backs; Spikes

The Eagles are in the middle of Phase 3 of the NFL's offseason program in the CBA. That means they're well into OTAs, with another round set to start Tuesday and run through Friday. 

After that, the team will have a mandatory minicamp June 7-9, followed by a long break before training camp. 

There's plenty to talk about on this Memorial Day Weekend, so let's hop into your questions: 

This question is referring to the yearly USA Today list of the best coaches in the NFL. The list ranked Pederson at No. 30 in a group with the other first-year coaches. Adam Gase is 28, Ben McAdoo 29, Pederson 30 and Dirk Koetter 31.

"We’re lumping all of the first-year coaches together, because no one really knows how they’ll fare as head coaches," Steven Ruiz writes. 

OK, sure. 

Really, this isn't saying Pederson is a bad coach, just an unknown, which is true. I guess for the purpose of the list, he has to go somewhere. Actually, I'm surprised he's higher than Koetter, who has more experience. 

We're not sure how Pederson will be as a coach. Shortly after he was hired, I penned this column, which still holds true. Just because the Pederson hire wasn't very popular, it doesn't mean he won't be a good head coach.

Really, we won't know for a while. 

I've been asked this a few times over the last few weeks, and I understand why. The Eagles are certainly weak at the running back spot, with Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood and Kenjon Barner. But I still don't see them adding anyone. 

The team drafted Smallwood and he's the key to this. They should see how he looks in training camp and even in preseason games before trying to pick anyone else up. If he can be a decent contributor this year, they can start to bring him along and groom him to be the starter. If he isn't going to be a contributor, then maybe it's time to look around a little bit. 

Another thing: there's not a ton of talent out there right now. And if anyone is still on the street, there's probably a reason for that. 

Q: Dave, you think Brandon Spikes should get a chance? He has played for Jim Schwartz before. - Joey (@MrJoey98)

Interesting name. Yes, Spikes did play for Jim Schwartz in Buffalo in 2014 and the Eagles already have three players on that team with these Eagles. 

But the team would have to weigh the positives and negatives of bringing him in. Spikes was released by the Patriots last season — he didn't' take a snap in 2015 — after he pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a car crash. 

The Eagles have nearly no depth at linebacker, but would Spikes, now 28, be worth it? Not sure. Probably not, though. 

Phillies prospect Rhys Hoskins looking to steadily advance through minors

052716-appel-slife.jpg

Phillies prospect Rhys Hoskins looking to steadily advance through minors

READING, Pa. – There is a photo atop Rhys Hoskins’ Twitter page that shows the Reading Fightin Phils first baseman, a Sacramento native, seated on a rock and looking out over Lake Tahoe, as well as the horizon beyond.

“Just keep livin’,” it says elsewhere on the page.

“As clichéd as it sounds, I try to stay where I am, day to day – take care of what I have to do that day,” he said Thursday, after hitting a solo homer in Reading’s 7-4 victory over Erie. “Life’s going to throw a lot of stuff at you, so just keep on going.”

The 23-year-old Hoskins, a fifth-round pick of the Phillies in 2014, as a result has managed to remain in the moment, but not without expanding his horizons – all the way to Australia, where he played winter ball this past offseason, and one day, he can only hope, Citizens Bank Park.

“I set a goal with my dad, as soon as I got drafted – a (minor-league) level a year, as long as I kept on progressing,” he said. “Try not to get caught somewhere.”

So far, so good. He spent 2014 at Williamsport, the short-season A-ball affiliate, and tore it up while splitting last season between two other Class A clubs, Lakewood and Clearwater. And recently he has begun to rake for the Double-A Fightins, a team featuring such other prospects as catcher Jorge Alfaro, rightfielder Dylan Cozens and pitcher Ben Lively.

Hoskins hit .450 while being named the Phillies Minor League Review Player of the Week for the week of May 16-22, and followed that up by hitting a walk-off grand slam Tuesday against Erie, in addition to his blast Thursday.

Overall, his stat line will not overwhelm – he was hitting .269 with nine homers and 32 RBIs in 45 games through Friday – but the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder is at least another name to consider going forward, as the big-league club continues its rebuild.

As for the others: Alfaro, the jewel of the Cole Hamels trade last year with Texas, was hitting .339 entering Saturday's games, and Cozens, a second-round pick in 2012, was leading the Eastern League with 13 homers and second in RBIs with 40. Lively, acquired from Cincinnati for Marlon Byrd in December 2014, was 7-0 with a 1.87 ERA in nine starts.

Certainly Hoskins understands the first-base pecking order, with Ryan Howard in obvious decline. Tommy Joseph is off to a promising start for the big-league club, and Darin Ruf is at Triple A Lehigh Valley. 

At the same time, Hoskins tries not to dwell too much on such things.

“If you get caught looking ahead,” he said, “you probably miss some stuff, where you’re at right now.”

All told he hit .319 with 19 homers and 90 RBIs in his two stops last season, then asked the Phillies to arrange a winter-ball destination. They sent him to Sydney, and he excelled there, too – .323 with eight homers and 38 RBIs, in 42 games.

“The baseball was fun, a lot of fun,” he said. “I was able to get some more work in, but I think more than anything it’s a life experience. … Not too many people get to spend three months in a country on the other side of the world, especially when someone else is paying for it.”

The season ran from October to January – part of Australia’s summer – and he remained for a few weeks afterward, touring not only that country but nearby New Zealand.

No telling when he might ever be back there. 

He does have some idea of where he’d like to be, baseball-wise, but everything in its time. He’s just going to keep livin’ and continue to focus on the task at hand.

NBA draft profile: G/F Jaylen Brown

052716_okafor_noel_slide.jpg

NBA draft profile: G/F Jaylen Brown

Jaylen Brown

Position: Shooting guard/small forward
Height: 6-7
Weight: 223
School: Cal

Aside from Ben Simmons, Brown may be the most scrutinized lottery pick in the draft. A blue chip recruit, the Mariettam, Georgia, native chose to attend Cal, spurning schools like Kansas and Kentucky. That decision didn't appear to be a wise one, as Brown struggled with inconsistency playing in a system that really didn't suit his skill set. A slasher with crazy athleticism, Brown averaged 14.6 points in his lone season with the Golden Bears. 

Strengths
Brown can play above the rim and then some. He's a strong finisher and would be an excellent candidate for next year's dunk contest. He's an explosive athlete with a tremendous first step. There were games in which he lived at the free throw line. With his ability to blow by people and willingness to take on all comers at the basket, he had 12 games this season in which he attempted eight or more free throws.

His 7-foot wingspan coupled with his quickness could make him an elite defender. He's also very strong. He averaged 5.4 rebounds as a wing.

Weaknesses
Two pretty big ones: his jump shot and his instincts. Brown shot 29 percent from three. That's not good for a wing player. He also shot just 65 percent from the line. Again, not good for a wing player with a propensity to get fouled. He flashed the ability to hit shots, hitting 42 percent (10 of 24) from three in seven February games. There's inconsistency with his mechanics, which good coaching should be able to iron out.

His feel for the game is just not very good. He doesn't seem to understand what defenses are trying to do to him. Again, good coaching could go a long way in helping Brown here. He also had a tendency to be a little loose with his handle. He averaged more turnovers (3.1) than assists (2) per game. 

How he'd fit with the Sixers
Horribly. With the way the Sixers are currently constructed, Brown would struggle with the same issues he had at Cal. With all of the big men clogging the paint, Brown's slashing ability would be useless. If the Sixers were to deal a big man and get more shooters, Brown would be fun to watch with head coach Brett Brown's desire to push the basketball. This kid is worth the price of admission in the open floor.

NBA comparison
Andrew Wiggins but with a lot further to go. Wiggins was a much more polished prospect coming out of Kansas than Brown is now. But the size profile and athleticism are very similar (although Brown is stronger physically than Wiggins). Wiggins was also much further along with the development of his jumper. 

The moral of the story: when you're an elite prospect, go to a big-time school with a big-time coach if you want to properly develop your game.

Draft projection
He's probably a top-5 pick based on upside alone (I can't see him getting past the Pelicans at No. 6), although the weaknesses could scare off teams looking for a "safe pick."