By Erik Schmidt
Erik Schmidt, 24, grew up in Maple Valley and attended Western Washington University. He grew up an avid Sonics fan and now celebrates Northwest representation in the NBA and college hoops.
Spencer Hawes, the former Seattle Prep and University of Washington star, is quietly having his best season in the NBA.
The 7-foot-1 Philadelphia 76ers center, who is in his sixth pro season, is averaging career highs in almost every statistical category while playing more – and just as important – more efficiently.
Big Double Zero has been asked to play a larger role for the 76ers, a team that is 7-16 and was considered by some before the season as the worst team in the NBA. While the sample size is small – just 23 games over an 82-game season – his on-court efficiency and chemistry with the NBA’s youngest team cannot be ignored.
Hawes is averaging 15.1 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists through Wednesday, all easily the best of his career and far above his career averages of 9.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists.
For comparison, only two NBA players average than 16 points, 10 rebounds and three assists this season – Kevin Love 0f the Minnesota Timberwolves (23.8/13.8/4.2) and Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers (20.6/10.4/3.0) . LaMarcus Aldridge of the Portland Trail Blazers (23.2/10.0/2.7), Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks (25.4/9.6/2.7) and Paul Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers (14.4/9.5/2.7) are some of players close. Only Love and Griffin are younger than Hawes, who is 25.
In other words, Hawes is in rarefied air.
Hawes is shooting 49.6 percent from the field and averaging 1.6 blocked shots. Both are also career highs.
Oh, and did I mention that he’s shooting 42.7 percent on three-point attempts? That’s also the best of his career.
A clutch performance Nov. 22 against the Milwaukee Bucks underlines Hawes’ improvement and value to the Sixers. In the last two minutes of regulation, Hawes hit three shots from beyond the arc, sending the game into overtime. The game-tying three-pointer came with just 1.7 seconds left as Hawes was fading out of bounds. The shot never touched the rim, and the 76ers went on to win the game handily in overtime.
Hawes and 76ers teammate Tony Wroten, another former Husky from Seattle, each scored 20 points Wednesday night in a loss to Minnesota. Hawes had another solid, efficient night – 7 for 12 from the field, and added six rebounds and three assists.
What does the future hold for Hawes, who is in the last year of a two-year, $13.1 million contract? He is a potential a trade piece if a contender is looking to add size and efficiency. He is healthy and highly motivated. Hawes will be a free agent at the end of the season.
If he stays in Philadelphia, which isn’t likely, he probably will be a pivtotal part of a rebuilding franchise. The 76ers showed they are looking to the future when they used their first-round draft pick to select injured Nerlens Noel, who is expected to miss the entire season. With the most highly anticipated draft since 2003 (Lebron James, Anthony and Dwyane Wade), Philly is in position to find a star.
While it is hard to predict what may happen over the marathon NBA season, what is clear is that Hawes is a valuable contributor who should be rewarded for his efforts. A trade or offseason signing to a contender could mean a lengthy run into the playoffs and a shot at an NBA title.
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