Feb 21, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Cleveland Cavaliers center Spencer Hawes (32) warms up before playing against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Cavaliers 98-91. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

How Spencer Hawes fits in the Cleveland Cavaliers offense


It’s now been a week since the Cavaliers acquired Spencer Hawes for Earl Clark, Henry Sims, and two second-round picks. The Cavs have played four games since then, and Hawes has performed very well. He’s really taken to the flow of the Cavaliers’ offense, averaging 14.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game, and shooting 47.1 percent from three. Granted, this is a small sample size, but considering that Luol Deng really struggled on the offensive side of the ball upon coming over from Chicago, Hawes’ early successes have been nice to see. It has appeared that the Cavs are focused on making him a big part of the offense, especially with Dion Waiters out. If this is going to continue to be the case, it begs the question: How are the Cavs actually using Hawes offensively?

The Cavaliers have run 59 plays resulting in a Hawes shot, turnover, or foul through four games, via Synergy. On these, Hawes is converting 0.97 points per possession, which would rank 108th in the league. I went through and charted how Hawes gets the ball for these plays, which is listed below:

Play Type

Play frequency

Pick and Pop

15

Garbage Play (Put backs off rebounds, turnovers in the backcourt or flow of the offense)

11

Spot-up in isolation

7

Transition

6

Post-ups

5

Dribble hand-offs

5

Spot-Ups Opposite a pick and roll

4

Receiving a pass off a drive into the paint

3

Pick and roll

3

This is the type of distribution you would expect from a big man with a solid outside game. However, the Cavs have really embraced the pick-n-pop game with Hawes, running this for over 25 percent of Hawes’ offensive sets. The 76ers ran this a fair amount with Hawes and Michael Carter-Williams, and the Cavs have run pick and pop a fair amount this season anyway. However, Hawes and Kyrie Irving appear to be developing some special chemistry on this set. Below, Kyrie and Hawes set up a high screen against John Salmons and Patrick Patterson of the Raptors:

Hawes PNP 1.png

As Salmons and Patterson both chase Kyrie, who is perceived as the bigger threat (for good reason), Hawes slips to the three-point line, and Kyrie delivers a flashy behind-the-back pass to a suddenly wide-open Hawes:

Hawes PNP 2.png

Hawes PNP 3.png

Hawes is already releasing his shot as Patterson gets in position to contest, and drills this three with little problem. This is how many of Hawes’s pick-and-pops go. A quick screen from Hawes for Kyrie, a quick Hawes slip to the three-point line, and a nice dish for a quick Hawes shot. A huge advantage to this for the Cavs is the speed with which this happens: if you check the time stamps above, you can see that the tandem goes from Hawes setting up the screen to shot release in roughly two seconds. That quickness is a huge weapon, especially as the Cavs bring the ball up the floor, and they can catch a disorganized defense or one with a clear matchup disadvantage, like Salmons trying to contain Irving.

Hawes appears to have the free reign to do what he sees fit with the ball in these sets. Most of the time it leads to a three-pointer, as shown above. However, if Hawes, who is a decent ball-handler for a big, senses a mismatch, he will attack the basket. Here, Jarrett Jack and Hawes run a high screen against the Wizards:

Hawes ISO 1.png

Hawes slips the screen again, and Jack feeds him immediately.

Hawes ISO 2.png

As Hawes receives the ball with Marcin Gortat closing out, he’s got options here. He could take the three, but Gortat’s a little quicker than Patterson, and has a little more momentum. Instead, Hawes pump-fakes and takes Gortat off the dribble.

Hawes ISO 3.png
Hawes ISO 4.png
Hawes ISO 5.png

The pick-n-pop game appears to be Hawes’s best tool offensively, and the Cavs are more than willing to incorporate it to get Hawes buckets. This has morphed over the last two games, and the Cavs have appeared to add a new wrinkle to the offense, letting Hawes slip side dribble hand-offs for open looks. This was particularly effective in last night’s game against the Thunder. Below, you can see Hawes with the ball on the right elbow, as Kyrie prepares to curl off a Luol Deng screen and receive the ball from Hawes.

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