Ziller evaluated Spencer Hawes' defense this morning. If you haven't read it yet, go there first. TZ concluded the article with the following line:
"But Hawes is young and you can't teach size. So hope lives another day."
As I read that line, it sounded very familiar. It seems like we've been using that explanation (or some may call it an excuse) for a while now. But does that make it any less true? Focusing on Spencer as a whole, not just his defense, I decided to explore the idea further.First, the simple facts are that Spencer Hawes just turned 22 years old, and is a legit 7-footer. He's a few months younger than Greg Oden's (based on Oden's stated age, 15 years younger than Oden's estimated actual age).
Hawes is now the same age as Jermaine O'Neal was when he made the leap from bench player to starter. That was obviously a different scenario due to the O'Neal going to the Pacers who, you know, actually played him. But imagine a Portland fan at that time. Think of the frustration with O'Neal's lack of development. For his first three seasons, O'Neal's points per 36 minutes declined. He was inconsistent at best. Some of this can be explained by inconsistent minutes. O'Neal did not have the faith of the coaches, so every mistake mattered.
Looking at Hawes, there are some similarities. But I would say that the numbers are more encouraging. Due to the differences in playing time, I'm strictly focusing on stats per 36 minutes. Hawes has been more consistent than O'Neal was. With the exceptions of rebounding (which has declined each of Spencer's three season when looking at per 36 stats) and points (which declined from 14.0 to 13.7 per 36 minutes), Hawes has been consistent or improving in all categories. It is, of course, troubling that Hawes has been less consistent in the 2 categories most associated with NBA centers. But beyond stats, what has been the scenario? 3 different coaches. Line-up changes. Inconsistent roles in the offense. Jermaine O'Neal shows us that if a coach has faith in a player and gives him consistency, there can be a marked improvement.
Back to Spencer's age, I challenge you to look at per game or per 36 minutes stats for Andrew Bogut, Dwight Howard, Jermaine O'Neal, or Al Jefferson. At age 21, all of these players were at different points in their careers, some were already considered successful, other not as much. But they all saw an increase in overall play and productivity at age 22.
I've gone back and forth on whether or not I should defend Hawes. There are times I'm ready to write him off, but I ultimately keep coming back to the idea of patience and faith. He's still young, he still has plenty of time ahead. He can help ensure success by putting the work in, and by making sure everyone can see him putting the work in. Make sure Westphal sees the work. Make sure the fans can see it. Be visible. But I believe he can do it.
So hope lives another day. Indeed.