Better know a 2014 NBA free agent: Spencer Hawes

Christian Petersen

Could the former Cleveland Cavaliers center be an alternative to Marcin Gortat?

We've explained how the Washington Wizards could sign some free agents if they so choose. Now, let's take a look at some of them. We'll shy away from the big big names like LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony, since y'all know about them. Next up: Spencer Hawes.

PREVIOUSLY: Greg MonroeLuol Deng

Team: Cleveland Cavaliers

Type: Unrestricted free agent.

Last year was ____: The next step in Hawes' evolution. For the second straight year, Hawes took a ton of threes after often ignoring the shot early in his career. He was free to fire away with no conscience in Brett Brown's hyper-fast system in Philadephia, but he also didn't stop once he got to Cleveland. His three-point rate was actually higher after the trade deadline than before.

As such, Hawes turned himself into a useful offensive player. His ability to drag centers away from the basket was very helpful for Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and the rest of Cleveland's attack. He shot a career-high 42 percent on three-pointers last year, including a scorching 45 percent with Cleveland. He's very good at rubbing off a high screen quickly and popping back before his defender can retreat back to him. If that man closes out hard, Hawes has an awkward, but effective off-the-dribble game and is a creative passer, both on the move and stationary. He forces teams to send a third man from the wing to account for him, which can lead to breakdowns elsewhere.

In short, he's a very good, if sometimes awkward, offensive player.

The problems come on the other end. Even when he tries his hardest, Hawes is slow and far from a rim protector. At best, he'll be in the right spots on basic coverages. At worst, though, he's slow and gives bad effort. His work in a 114-85 76ers loss against (ironically) the Cavaliers right before the trade deadline was the single worst defensive performance I saw last season. Even though he tried harder in Cleveland, he still wasn't effective: the Cavaliers were over 10 points better defensively per 100 possessions with Hawes on the bench. Hawes may really have been the worst defensive center in the league last season.

Why he'd fit in well in D.C.: Spacing, spacing and more spacing. Washington's offense desperately needs more creativity, and Hawes would provide it in spades. Wall and Marcin Gortat had some nice pick and rolls last year, but I suspect Hawes may actually make that action more difficult to defend because he offers more versatility. Hawes' passing ability also opens up more misdirection and weakside movement.

Why he won't: I don't think Randy Wittman will tolerate Hawes' defensive shenanigans. Gortat was no Emeka Okafor, but he was still willing to guard the rim and go straight up to prevent shots. Hawes has yet to demonstrate even that level of competency in his NBA career.

Likely price tag: I think Hawes is worth the mid-level exception. Add in the big man tax, and we're probably looking at around $7-8 million a year to nab him. I predict anywhere from 60 to 75 percent of what Gortat gets.

Verdict: Hawes is a useful alternative if Gortat departs in free agency, and I can even understand the argument that signing him for less money is a smarter long-term plan given age, price, etc. The Wizards' offense could use his creativity. But Wittman would have to put in a ton of work to get Hawes to even defend at a passable level, so any offensive improvements could be offset by his poor D.

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