Twelve games into the young season we've seen Doug Collins use four different starting lineups. We've seen wild variations in the minutes of Marreese Speights, Thad Young, Darius Songaila and Tony Battie. But through it all, one thing has remained consistent. Spencer Hawes has started every game at center. It's only logical to wonder why, at this point.
Let's be clear about something before we even start down this road. Both through statistical measurements and pure observation, Spencer Hawes has been the worst Sixer in the regular rotation. According to 82games.com, he's been the worst Sixer on the roster. He's killed the team on both ends of the floor. From non-existent defense, to terrible soft shots around the rim, to flat-footed long jumpers, to turnovers, to fouls, to getting beat down the floor by the slowest of the slow, he's been an absolute killer.
Still, every game he's trotted out there, like a lamb to the slaughter. While other players on the roster lose time based on their performance, Hawes continues to play. Why? Here are some possible reasons, though I think they sound more like excuses:
- They need his size in the starting lineup - False, there is no benefit to having useless height on the floor rather than slightly more useful play from a shorter player. Hawes has provided basically zero of the production you typically get from size.
- There's no one else to start - False, pretty much every other big man on the team has played at a higher level than Hawes, any of them would be a better option. Speights or Battie at the five makes the team better. Brand at the five and either Thad or Nocioni at the four makes the team better. You name the combination and it's an improvement over Hawes at the five.
- His passing helps the flow of the offense - False. Hawes has 9 assists and 13 turnovers. Sam Dalembert has 9 assists and 11 turnovers.
- His outside shooting opens up the floor - False. Hawes is shooting 22% on shots from 16-23 feet.
- Tony Battie can't handle the minutes as a starter - Probably true, but that doesn't explain why any of the other options isn't used.
If someone tries to sell you any of those reasons to explain Hawes' relative free pass from Collins, don't buy it. The answer has to be something else. I do have a theory, though. Collins sees Hawes as a completely lost cause. He's nothing more than an expiring contract to the franchise at this point, so there's nothing to be gained from a motivational standpoint. The jury is still out on both Speights and Thad, so Collins is using minutes to reward/punish them for doing (or not doing) the things he thinks they need to do to become useful members of this team for the long term.
The problem here is, even if that is Collins' logic, the subtlety of the situation is something that's completely beyond a guy like Speights' comprehension. All he sees is that he makes a mistake or two and he's in the doghouse, while Hawes goes out there and makes the same mistakes, usually even more of those mistakes, yet he never has to pay a price. It's selective enforcement in Speights' eyes, because it really is selective enforcement.
That's my theory, anyway. At least we haven't been hearing how ball friendly Hawes is from the team or their mouthpieces in a while. It's almost like he's the 500-pound gorilla in the room that no one wants to talk about. What do you guys think? Why is Hawes still in the starting lineup? How long will he remain there?