OKLAHOMA CITY: He has only played four games with his new team, but already the Cavaliers have seen most of what Spencer Hawes can do. He’s a terrific long-range shooter and a gifted passer, particularly for a big man. He can rebound and find the open man.
And he has a big mouth.
Hawes was assessed a technical in the Cavs’ loss to the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday. It was his eighth this season, which ties him for the fifth-most in the league.
The Sacramento Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins leads the NBA with 13 technicals, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin has 12 and the Indiana Pacers’ Lance Stephenson has 10.
Not far behind is Hawes, who conceded after the shocking win Wednesday over the Oklahoma City Thunder that he has a quick trigger.
“It’s usually for profanity,” he said.
He had the Thunder cursing Wednesday after scoring 19 points, grabbing seven rebounds and going 3-for-6 shooting 3-pointers. In four games with the Cavs, Hawes has already worked his way into the starting lineup and is averaging 14.3 points, 9 rebounds and 2.3 assists. He is shooting 44 percent, including 47 percent on 3-pointers. Most important, he’s cleared congestion out of the lane.
Hawes was acquired by acting General Manager David Griffin in large part because of the spacing he could provide. The Cavs are a drive-and-kick team, Griffin reasoned, but the only way to effectively drive and kick is to have room to do so.
Coach Mike Brown moved Hawes into the starting lineup this week because he believes Hawes is a better fit alongside Tristan Thompson. Thompson stays close to the basket, and Hawes has demonstrated he has 3-point range. But when he was coming off the bench, Brown noticed too many times when both Hawes and Anthony Bennett were on the perimeter and no one was left inside.
“At times we’ve got five guys on the perimeter and we’re not quite to the point where we can play like that all the time,” Brown said.
Hawes is averaging 3.2 assists to rank second among centers behind the Chicago Bulls’ Joakim Noah (4.6). His .405 3-point percentage leads all centers in the NBA.
“You have a guy like that who can space the perimeter, it makes your job a lot easier,” Kyrie Irving said, using pick-and-roll plays as an example. “Spencer is wide open and he’s going to make the right play. That’s what we need him to do on a consistent basis.”
Brown has tinkered with a big lineup that includes Hawes and Tyler Zeller playing together. He used it for the bulk of the fourth quarter of the home loss Tuesday to the Raptors, then tried it again briefly Wednesday in the win over the Thunder. One of Zeller’s biggest leaps this season is his confidence in rolling to the basket in pick-and-roll situations. That is allowing Brown to play both bigs, as long as Zeller stays in the game defensively and doesn’t get caught out of position.
With 23 games left, Hawes’ transition into the Cavs lineup has gone about as smooth as possible.
“It’s a testament to the guys,” Hawes said. “They’ve embraced me and really helped me out making it as seamless as possible knowing we have no time to spare. They’ve really helped me out on both ends and trying to assimilate as quickly as possible.”
Whether or not he sticks around beyond this season remains to be seen. He’s only 25, but he’s making $6.5 million in the final year of his contract. It’s fair to say there are larger contract priorities this summer than Hawes, but the Cavs have been pleased with what they’ve seen so far.
“The stuff he’s doing for us now we kind of felt that he was able to do coming in, but you don’t really get the real gist of it until you are able to play with him for a few games,” Brown said. “Spencer’s an intelligent guy. He’s a guy who works hard and he’s got a few skill sets offensively that we didn’t have from a big. We’re getting used to what he can do for us offensively.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at https://ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.