Free agent center Spencer Hawes and the Portland Trail Blazers have a mutual interest. This is probably a good thing, despite my aversion to mullets and 7-footers that regularly shoot 20-footers. Hawes is an above average interior passer, a solid finisher at the rim, and a floor spacer above all else. Over the course of his career he has averaged 36.1 percent on three-point attempts, which, for reference, is the exact percentage Nicolas Batum averaged in the 2013-2014 season. Hawes has potential to be a huge boon for Portland’s bench production.
If signed, he would likely take the backup center job from Joel Freeland. Since Freeland wasn’t exactly turning heads with 3.3 points per game, this would be no big loss on offense for the Trail Blazers outside of developmental deceleration for him and Meyers Leonard. Hawes averaged 13.5 points as a starter in Cleveland this season. It would not exactly be a hit on defense either, because while Hawes is far from a bastion of strength, he is still at least a baby step up from any of Portland’s other would-be rim protectors off the bench. The hope here would be to relieve the backcourt’s scoring burden when the bench is emptied.
Hawes could actually do this with more than his scoring. His ability to open up the lane, paired with his skills as a passer, may be the key to unlocking Thomas Robinson’s potential as a scorer. Playing Robinson with Hawes simultaneously would help counteract the shrinking effect Robinson tends to have on the floor. This is something Portland tried to do with Leonard at times, but they couldn’t swallow his defensive inefficacy on the other end. Hawes plays a similar game to Leonard’s, minus athleticism, but plus court awareness and experience.
It would seem that Hawes is the Trail Blazers’ top priority in free agency at this time. The question now becomes: will he accept a smaller contract than he had this year to play in Portland? Hawes earned $6.5 million this season, but the Trail Blazers can only offer $5.3 million (their full MLE). A Seattle native, Hawes is eager to play in the Pacific Northwest, but not to rush into an immediate decision. Other suitors include the Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, and Miami Heat. He will likely wait to see who loses the LeBron James / Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes in case one of those four will overpay him.