"Spencer's middle name is frustration sometimes," 76ers coach Doug Collins joked last night.
Out of context, that could a very newsworthy quote, with the coach seemingly voicing his frustration over Hawes' inconsistent play on the night of his best game of the season.
While that was not the context Collins made the statement in -- the coach was talking about how Hawes lets his own frustrations get the better of him -- it was apropos to the way most 76ers fans felt watching Hawes play last night.
Why can't Hawes perform like that most nights? Or even some nights? Why can't we get more consistency out of him?
Why won't he hang around the basket, where his size alone will get him some rebounds and garbage points almost by accident? Why does he rely so much on long two point jump shots, the worst shot in basketball?
According to Synergy, Hawes' efficiency on jump shots is worse than 72% of the league. Yet jump shots account for nearly 50% of his field goal attempts despite the fact that he's 7 feet tall.
"When Spencer [Hawes] sometimes gets himself into a tough game [is when] floats out on the perimeter too much and depends on his jump shot," Collins said about Hawes after the game, in what was a revelation to few 76ers fans who have followed the team over these last few years.
"When I [start] forcing it, I start to drift a little bit [out on the perimeter]," Hawes said after the game. "They always tell me to go in the paint, so I guess I listened to them."
He did listen, at least for one night.
On the season, only 60% of Hawes' field goal attempts have been from within 16', far too low of a percentage for somebody who is 7' tall and doesn't really have 3 point range. Combine that with only a 0.20 free throw rate and you have an incredibly inefficient 7 footer.
Last night, however, 9 of Hawes' 10 made field goals were within 16 feet and he got to the line 6 times, or a 0.40 free throw rate.
Extending that out a little bit further, over his last 6 games only 71% of his field goal attempts have been from within 16'. With more shots coming at the rim, Hawes' free throw rate has climbed to 0.252 over that span. Not stellar, but an improvement nonetheless.
Looking at his change in shot distribution, it's probably not surprising that Hawes has been a much more effective basketball player of late. He is averaging 14.7 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game over his last 6 games, with a true shooting percentage of 59.1%, nearly 10% over his seasons average of 49.9%.
Perhaps just as telling, Hawes has maintained a 27.7% defensive rebounding percentage over the last 6 games, compared to 20.6% for the season and 20.7% for his career, just another representation of the impact his increased presence in the paint has made.
A sign of things to come? A change in his approach to the game? A change in how he is used in the offensive scheme?
Not likely. Hawes is in his 6th NBA season and is about to turn 25 years old, having logged nearly 1,000 minutes in his NBA career. His career averages include a 50.0% true shooting percentage, a 17.3% free throw rate, and a 20.7% defensive rebounding percentage. Expecting his approach to the game to radically change at this stage of his career is setting yourself up for failure. You'll see it for spurts, in the same way we saw it for the first 17 games of last season, but in no way is it sustainable.
But it is what makes Hawes so frustrating. He doesn't have to develop the post moves of Kareem or the toughness of Ben Wallace to be effective. He could be an effective starting big man with his current physical attributes and his current skill set.
But whatever has gotten up Spencer's you-know-what to cause him to play the way he has will most assuredly pass, and we will left with the same soft, jump shooting big man we've all come to know.
Frustration is his middle name.
Post game interviews
Post game interviews with Spencer Hawes, Damien Wilkins, and Dorell Wright.