(More excellence from Aykis. -- TZ)
Spencer Hawes has been a hot topic this year. Many have claimed that he has regressed as a player in his 3rd year in the NBA. The Kings definitely are lacking in the frontcourt and much like Beno with the backcourt last year, fans are pointing to Spencer as the biggest problem up front.
So has Spencer regressed?
(Statistics used from 82games.com , hoopdata.com , and basketball-reference.com)
First lets just take a look at the basic stats:
Just looking at basic stats shows a few things. First off, his scoring and offense hasn't really been impacted. Per 36 minutes, he's averaging 14.0 points, the same as last years per 36. His overall FG% is the same, his FT% is much improved, and his 3P% is lower, but not by too much. He's also getting more assists, less turnovers, less blocks, and less fouls Per 36. His TS% is also above 50%, but for a Center, you'd like to see his FG% above 50%, not his TS%.
But by far the biggest difference between this year and last year have been his rebounding numbers. Spencer's rebounding, while improved on the offensive end, have definitely regressed in regards to the defensive end. Advanced Statistics shows the big fall off from last year, when he was grabbing 20.9% of the defensive boards for a total of 8.7 boards per 36 minutes. That's still reasonable for a Center (for reference, Andrew Bogut had a 21.9% Defensive Rebound rate his sophomore year at Age 22), but this year, Spencer's rebound rate has dropped to an abysmal 16.6% (for reference, Mikki Moore has a career 16.1 DRB%). Of all Starting Centers in the NBA, Spencer ranks ahead of only Andrea Bargnani (16.0 DRB%) in DRB%, and is very close to Roy Hibbert (16.7 DRB%) and tied with Nenad Krstic (16.6 DRB%). For a player with as good of hands as Spencer, I don't think there's a reason why he shouldn't be at 20% or more for DRB%. I believe it has something to do with lower body strength, and also a little bit because of the fact that Tyreke is grabbing a lot of rebounds that point guards usually don't get. Still there is no doubt that Spencer has definitely regressed in the rebounding area of his game.
As for defense, even though his blocks have come down, his defensive rating has improved from 113 points per 100 possessions to 110 points per 100 possessions. Also, last year, when Spencer was in the game, the opponent Effective FG% allowed was 53.5%. This year its only 51.7%. But although it looks like his individual defense has improved, his team defense seems to have regressed. Last year, when Spencer was off the court, the teams opponent Effective FG% allowed improved from 53.5% to 51.4%. This year when Spencer is off the court, the Kings opponent EFG% allowed improves from 51.7% to 49.3%. It seems as if the team plays better defense when he is off the floor.
When we look at Spencer's Opponent PER per 48 minutes from last year to this year, we see an improvement in individual defense. Last year Spencer's opponents averaged a 19.6 PER when playing against him. This year, Spencer's opponents only have a 16.9 PER. Still, the average PER is around 15, and Spencer is not doing a very good job in the paint. Has he improved a bit on that end from last year? I would say yes on man defense, but when you factor in his regression in defensive rebounding (an important aspect of defense), I wouldn't say he's improved very much.
On Offense, Spencer has stayed basically the same as last year. His usage rate is down slightly, which means he's getting the ball less, which makes sense with the addition of Tyreke, and his points are down, but that mainly goes to him getting less minutes than last year. His shot selection has improved though, from him taking 48% of his shots inside last year, to 53% inside this year. Also, 100% of his 3 point shots are assisted, so he's not really taking any of those out of the rhythm of the game.
One worrying statistic about Spencer's offensive game though is the percentage of his shots that get blocked. Last year, 6.4% of his shots were blocked, while this year 10.0% of his shots were blocked. I think this goes hand in hand with his rebounding problem. He lacks the strength to power his way inside, and tends to take the ball up too softly, which results in quite a few blocks. For example, Tyreke Evans, who is 6'6 and also takes 52% of his shots inside (more layups than Spencer it might be added), only gets blocked 7% of the time. That's very worrying to me, when our 7'1 Center gets blocked more than our 6'6 point guard. In fact, Spencer is the King who gets his shot blocked the most, with the only one coming close to him as Jason Thompson at 7.5% of the time. I wonder what has changed so much from last year to see such a drop off in this area from Spencer.
Spencer is only 21 years old. He would be a Senior in College right now. Nobody doubts his potential, and he's shown flashes of brilliance (youngest Center ever to get a triple double, his performance against the Lakers), but he has not shown consistency yet, and if he hopes to be the Kings starting Center for years to come, that is definitely something that needs to happen. In my opinion, I think he needs to get stronger, especially in regards to his lower body strength.
So has Spencer regressed? I think its safe to say that he has in some areas, and improved in others. The real regression in my mind is that he hasn't really made a leap this year, as most players in their 3rd year tend to do. There hasn't been any really noticeable improvement in his game or even statistics. But also take into consideration the Coaching change and the additions of Tyreke as a primary ball handler on the team. Spencer is being asked to do things he wasn't last year, and it could be that he's the only one seemingly suffering from the coaching change.