Ten Biggest Questions for the Sixers Off-Season: 8. Is Spencer Hawes Good Enough For Our Starting Center?

Ten Biggest Questions for the Sixers Off-Season: 8. Is Spencer Hawes Good Enough For Our Starting Center?

It’s been a tough three years with Spencer Hawes in Philadelphia. Our
prospect big man, who started 150 games over his first three seasons as
a Sixer, has been the quintessential NBA tease over his time
in Philly, playing well enough for stretches to gradually raise our
expectations, until he pulls the bottom out from under us with a week or
a month of subpar play, only to begin the cycle over again. The flashes
of growth and unteachable talent are always offset by flashes of
regression and general incompetence, and at the end of the day, it’s
exceedingly difficult to tell if we have a really good NBA player who
just needs to learn consistency, or a seven-foot mirage whose
deficiencies will always outweigh his perceived “potential.”

For the first few years, the Sixers were driven by necessity, and a
paucity of other viable options, to lean towards the former, and they
even rewarded his uneven play with a two-year, $13 million contract last
off-season. With the acquisition of Andrew Bynum later in the summer,
it was supposed to take the pressure of Spence to prove himself–he’d be
overpaid as a back-up center, for sure, but his inconsistency would be
less concerning in a lower-leverage role on the team, and who knows,
maybe he and Bynum would even be able to work well off one another, as
Bynum and Pau Gasol once did in Los Angeles.

Obviously, that pan didn’t plan out, and now with one year remaining
on his contract, the question remains of whether or not Spencer Hawes
will ever be an acceptable starting center in the Association. The
Sixers would really, really love him to be, considering he’s still only
25 (happy birthday last Sunday, Spence!), still not terribly expensive,
and when he plays well, the Sixers always seem to be able to reach
another level, as they did this March when he had his best month of the
season (14/10/4 on 51% shooting and 50% from deep, with two blocks) and
the Sixers went 8-9 for the month, their best month of 2013, sadly.

The numbers sorta bear out that last part, by the way. Take a look at Spence’s splits in Sixers wins vs. losses this season:

Wins: 12 PPG, 8 RPG, 3 APG, 50% FG, 42% 3PT, 2.0 BLK
Losses: 10 PPG, 7 RPG, 2 APG, 44% FG, 30% 3PT, 1.0 BLK

Every player is better in wins than losses, generally, but those are
pretty notable splits, especially in terms of his shooting numbers.
Passes the eye test, too–there’s just so much more that opens up for the
team on offense when he’s hitting his jumper, but everything seems to
really sputter to a halt when he’s clanking.

Anyway, you could make the argument, as Sixers brass will likely try
to, that Spence is a viable option at starting center going into next
year, if Bynum doesn’t work out and Al Jefferson costs too much and no
one in the draft really catches their eye. He still has an above average
PER (16.0 last year, not bad for a center), and set a career high in
Win Shares, supposedly worth about 4.5 wins to the Sixers last year.
Besides, he got better towards the end of the year, and he’s still only
25, which means there should be plenty of room for him still to improve.

I would bet against this happening, though. Forgetting his defense
for a second, let’s compare his numbers this year to his stats for the
Sacramento Kings back in 2009, his second year in the league:

2009: 11.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.9 APG, 47% FG, 35% 3PT, 1.2 BLK
2013: 11.0 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 2.2 APG, 46% FG, 36% 3PT, 1.4 BLK

Kind scary similar for a player in his age-20 and age-24 seasons, no?
There are some subtle efficiency differences to be found if you look
hard enough–Spence shot the ball about 10% better from the free-throw
line this year, averaged about half a turnover less a game, and had a
much better defensive rating (though a lot of that was his playing on
the 17-win, anything-goes Kings team of 2009). But for a player to go
through as many ups and downs as Spencer Hawes has as a player the last
four years and essentially be right back where he started
production-wise…it’s a little disconcerting for his long-term prospects.

And if he can’t be a superlative offensive player, his defense will
always make him a net liability. When discussing Hawes’ D, Sixer fans
will likely flash back to the Celtics series in 2012 where he was
profoundly abused by the likes of Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass,
proving himself downright unplayable over the course of the series
(though Coach Collins continued to play him just the same). This year,
Spence wasn’t much better, continuing to get swallowed up by more
physical, sizeable frontlines like that of hose on the Nets, who Hawes
averaged just five boards a game against in four games this season.
(According to Hoopdata,
Spence ranked 23rd in Total Rebounding Rate among centers who played at
least 20 minutes a game.) He was still routinely a crucial half-second
late on help defense, he still didn’t get his hands up to contest jump
shooters, and he never, ever took charges–only three all season, pretty
deplorable for a defensive anchor.

Spence would still be an asset as a backup center, and as a $6.5
million expiring contract this season, could have value to the Sixers in
trade scenarios, either as cap filler in a bigger deal, or as a
short-term loaner to a contending team in need of size in exchange for
future prospects and/or draft picks. As a starting center, I think it’s
safe to say he’s run his course in Philly, and that if we tip off the
season with him jumping at half-court, it probably means our
expectations for the year should be kept reasonably low. Much here
depends on Bynum, free agency, and the draft, but if the Sixers’ plan
for our big-man situation is to resign Hawes to another contract–of any
size or length–once his current expires, that’s really no plan at all.

Previously:

No. 10. Where Are We Now (And Where Are We Going)?

#9. Is Thaddeus Young Untouchable?

Philadelphia Union announce 2017 broadcast schedule

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Philadelphia Union announce 2017 broadcast schedule

CHESTER, Pa. (Feb. 21, 2017) – Philadelphia Union today announced their 2017 Major League Soccer broadcast schedule, with all 34 of the club’s matches available live, on local and national television. A total of four matches will be featured on local broadcast television via 6abc, with 20 matches on The Comcast Network (TCN) and five on Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia (CSN). The Union are also slated to be on national television five times in 2017, appearing on ESPN four times and FS1 once.

Union supporters can catch the club on 6abc in four marquee fixtures: Saturday, April 22 vs. Montreal; Saturday, June 24 vs. D.C. United; Sunday, October 15 at Chicago; and Sunday, October 22 vs. Orlando on MLS Decision Day.

Additionally, the club will be on national television for the following games: Friday, April 14 vs. New York City FC (ESPN); Sunday, June 18 vs. New York Red Bulls (ESPN); Sunday, July 2 vs. New England (FS1); Sunday, September 17 at New York Red Bulls (ESPN); and Sunday, October 1 vs. the defending MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders FC (ESPN).

See below for a full summary of the Union’s 2017 MLS regular-season schedule, including all broadcast information:

Philadelphia begins the 2017 campaign by playing at Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Sunday, March 5 (TCN / 9:30 p.m. ET) before returning to Talen Energy Stadium for the 2017 home opener on Saturday, March 11 against Toronto FC (CSN / 4:30 p.m. ET). In addition to Season Tickets, fans can now purchase Partial Plans and Group Tickets for all Philadelphia Union matches at Talen Energy Stadium.  For the first time, the Union will be offering a Fully Flex 9 Game Plan where fans can select their games along with a Tiered Flex 5 Game plan. Fans can purchase or find out more info by visiting PhiladelphiaUnion.com/tickets or calling 1-877-21-UNION.

DeSean Jackson is playing the Eagles against the NFL

DeSean Jackson is playing the Eagles against the NFL

The Eagles sure could use a wide receiver, and DeSean Jackson is a free agent. Jackson even said it himself in an interview that ran on Tuesday: a reunion with the Eagles would be a good story.

Or perhaps a story that's almost too good to be true.

Don't get me wrong, Jackson could very well wind up back in an Eagles uniform once everything is said and done. He can become a free agent in March. There's an obvious need at wide receiver. Jackson never wanted to leave Philadelphia in the first place, and the person responsible for that — Chip Kelly — is long gone. It makes perfect sense.

So much sense, Jackson can use what is considered common knowledge around the NFL for leverage in contract negotiations with 31 other teams.

Jackson is a smart, calculating guy, especially when it comes to business. He doesn't even have to say he wants to play for the Eagles for people to presume the interest is there, and more to the point, he hasn't.

When a bunch of Philly reporters pressed Jackson about his impending free agency in October, he said there were no hard feelings with the Eagles. When confronted again in December, the three-time Pro Bowler responded that you never know what can happen. On Tuesday, Jackson flat out admitted he's thought about a potential return — while describing talk of it as "a lot of speculation."

There are reports the Eagles will pursue Jackson should he hit the market on March 9. The 30-year-old speedster will be happy to field their call.

Along with the rest of the calls he'll get from around the league.

Unlike the Eagles, Jackson has come right out and said he wants to remain in Washington, and as recently as two weeks ago. Whether the interest is mutual on the Redskins' part remains to be seen, particularly at Jackson's contract demands, but that's a lot stronger than any suggestion he's made to the contrary.

Another report emerged on Tuesday that indicates the Buccaneers are a potential landing spot for Jackson as well, citing a pre-existing rapport with quarterback Jameis Winston. In other words, at the very least, there are more teams competing for his services.

Philadelphia, Washington, Tampa Bay, the West Coast, wherever — this is ultimately going to come down to which one can or is willing to make the most attractive offer.

That might be strike one against the Eagles already. They don't have a great deal of room to maneuver under the salary cap as of now, and while additional money could become available, signing Jackson for around $10 million per year or more would be a strain no matter what.

Keep in mind, Jackson is simply answering the questions he's asked about the Eagles. He's not running around from one media outlet to the other trying to create a market there. And in all honesty, his answers have been lukewarm at best, essentially amounting to, Sure, I'll listen if the Eagles call. Why not?

In the meantime, that puts the rest of the NFL on notice. The Eagles can be very competitive in free agency when they choose to be, and if they really want Jackson — and there are people in high-ranking places that probably wouldn't mind that — they will be players. Even if the Eagles have no serious intention of chasing Jackson, the perception is out there.

Jackson certainly understands that, and he hasn't had to put much effort into keeping the fire burning. He's more or less let the flames fan themselves.

Ultimately, Jackson to the Eagles isn't the least bit unlikely. Yet the idea that he's going to show the club any more deference than another doesn't seem quite as plausible when his comments, this entire situation are placed under the microscope.

Words are cheap. Signing Jackson, on the other hand, will not be. Not for the Eagles. Not for anybody. Not while he's expertly pitting his suitors against one another in the DeSean Jackson Sweepstakes.

The winner isn't going to be based on sentimental favorite or nostalgia. It's who's going to make the best deal for Jackson.