Nine players have played the center position for at least one rotation so far this year for our Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers. Obviously, some play center more often than others, and when others do play center it's for an insignificant period of time (for instance, Andre Iguodala has played center in 3 games this year for a total of 48 seconds), while others see the center position more frequently and yet still don't spend a significant amount of time at the position (Thaddeus Young has played center for 14 minutes, 51 seconds in total this year, but only 3 games has he exceed a minute and a half of playing time at the position).
Spencer Hawes has been the starting center for the Sixers since the beginning of the season, save for one game he missed due to an injury (The January 3rd loss at New Orleans at the end of the Ice Capades sojourn). To my way of thinking, a quality starting player, at any position, will play 24 minutes in a game, at least. That's only half the game. A true NBA Playoff caliber starter should play at least half the game, don't you think? In 25 of his 38 games (65.7%) Hawes hasn't played more than 24 minutes. If you push that number up to 30 minutes, you find only 3 games in which Hawes has exceeded the 30 minute plateau.
There's also something else I thought I've seen watching Sixers games this year. Hawes is the starter, no doubt, he starts the first and third quarters at center, yet when he goes to the bench he often doesn't return for the rest of the half. In 8 games this year, Spencer Hawes has had one 'run' at the start of each half, with varying amounts of minutes, and then not gotten off the bench again the rest of that half. Four more games any further appearances in the game have totaled less than 2 minutes of court time. Maybe that's normal, maybe if I ran it for the other consistent starters, I'd find the same thing, but it seems odd to me that a starter will make his 2 'starts' in the first and second half and then not be heard from again the rest of the game, let alone in slightly more than 20% of the games he's played in this year.
How do the Sixers fare while Hawes is on the court? For the season (through 39 games) Hawes has a net -45 on the court. In 16 games this year, Hawes rotations have totaled a net positive scoring differential, 10 or greater 6 times. Conversely, in 19 games, Hawes rotations have netted a net negative scoring differential, -10 or more 10 times. And for completeness, I come up with 3 games where Hawes rotations have a net zero impact on the scoring. (No the 16 positive games that Hawes has had do not correspond to all the Sixer wins. The Sixers are 10-6 in those 16 games)
For some comparisons of other players at center this year for the Sixers:
There's a saying people use that goes something to the effect of "It's not who starts the game, it's who ends the game." First off, Spencer Hawes has only appeared in the fourth quarter of 14 games this year. Less than 40% of the games he's played in, he's played in the fourth quarter. The sixers are 10-4 in games where Hawes plays in the fourth quarter. However, there's another maxim about the game being "on the line", which is arbitrarily seen as the last five minutes of the game usually. Using an arbitrary number (2), we find that Hawes has only played 2 minutes, or more, in the last 5 minutes of a game 6 times and the Sixers are 4-2 in those 6 games.
This is Hawes fourth year in the league, a quick glance at his year to year numbers seems to indicate to me that his overall game has shown no growth from last year (WS/48 and Ortg Drtg Differential).
A fourth year player, you'd hope, should still be showing improvement. Thaddeus Young for instance in his fourth year is showing improvement over his third (and second if you want to throw away the Jordan year) year. In his fourth year, Andre Iguodala showed an overall improvement to his game. These players were chosen because Hawes was a lottery pick and like Young is playing for his next contract.
Originally, I planned to do a more in-depth look at centers on the Sixers because it's (to me) one of the biggest holes on the roster, but as you can see, it sort of turned into being about Hawes. Since my first 'article' was so long it had to break into two parts, I've decided not to go any further on the other centers, but to leave the data presentation at this point.
A note before my conclusions; As I've stated before, in statistical terms, my inferential skills are far outstripped by my descriptive skills. I'm not as adept at interpreting what I'm looking at and I might try to read too many things into the numbers, so I will try and limit my conclusions appropriately, but feel free to tell if I'm going too far or misreading what I see.
Spencer Hawes was taken 10th in the 2007 draft, the same draft in which Thaddeus Young was taken 12th. So far, Spencer Hawes hasn't really shown much to me to indicate skills that made him a 10th pick in the NBA draft as much as "there weren't really many better options at number 10" in the 2007 draft Doug Collins does start Spencer Hawes, but I don't think that Doug Collins trusts Spencer Hawes' game, or even particularly likes his game enough to make him his primary center. (I think if Battie hadn't missed 7 of the last 9 games, Hawes minutes would be even less than recently showed. I believe that what we see this year is the best Spencer Hawes has, and it would be a terrible mistake to give him a long term deal, low ball him, encourage him to find a sign & trade that might work to the Sixers benefit, but just because he's tall doesn't mean you keep him.
This year the Sixers have two restricted free agents, and a new CBA coming. I don't fully endorse a long term deal yet to Thaddeus Young, but if it comes down to one or the other, I think that Young is the better option. (To indicate where I've stood in the past, I felt the Sixers should keep John Salmons instead of Willie Green when they had the option between the two)
So that's a brief (kind of) look at Spencer Hawes using rotational data provided so graciously by Brian & Derek. What do you think of Hawes? Do you think he can improve? Why do you think he starts all the time, but often doesn't seem to be trusted as much by Doug Collins? Have at it (and me).
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