Spencer Hawes Could Prove More Valuable to Philadelphia 76ers as a Trade Chip

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COMMENTARY | The last time Spencer Hawes signed a contract with the Philadelphia 76ers, the team had just reached the Eastern Conference semifinals and took the Boston Celtics to the limit, losing the series in seven games.

Hawes will be a free agent after this season, but the circumstances this time are different. The Philadelphia 76ers are at the very beginning of a rebuilding effort. The outlook on this season is bleak and with rookie Nerlens Noel out until at least Christmas, the organization seems to be looking toward the future.

Where does Hawes fit into those plans?

At least for the very beginning, Hawes will be the team's starting center.

Short on depth at center and veterans, Hawes will be a big body that will attempt to fill the lane and help the young players develop.

"He's been a big help already," Noel said in a Marc Narducci article on Philly.com. "He's talked to me about the different guys I will be going up against and how much this league demands of you."

Hawes will get plenty of playing time. Last year, Hawes started only five of the team's first 47 games. That most likely won't be the case this time around.

Noel, Kwame Brown and Arnette Moultrie are all injured. Hawes has the experience and, compared to others on the roster, talent to be the main guy in the middle.

His numbers, however, are average. Last season, he averaged 11.0 points per game, 7.2 rebounds per game and 1.4 blocks per game. Those numbers, while being slightly affected by coming off the bench in the beginning of the season, were slightly better than his career averages of 9.0 points per game, 6.0 rebounds per game and 1.1 blocks per game.

Hawes is only 25 years old and is still young enough to make progress, even if it is slow. But what Hawes has shown so far is nothing spectacular.

Hawes doesn't defend well and isn't a physical presence in the post. The label "soft" is thrown around quite a bit by fans and bloggers. For a player that is over 7-foot tall, he doesn't shoot particularly well either as he shot 46.4 percent from the field last year and is a 46.7 percent shooter for his career.

He also could be a bit pricey. His last deal was for $13.1 million over two seasons.

How does he fit into the team's plans?

Of course, if he develops into an All-Star, at 25 years old he could absolutely be a part of the team's future plans. But he's been in the league for six years now and there's no indication that kind of jump is on the horizon.

Should Noel be healthy, would it be worth signing a backup center on a rebuilding team for that kind of price? His contract last offseason came before the team acquired Andrew Bynum.

What Philadelphia might be interested in thinking about is Hawes' trade value.

His case seems a little similar to that of J.J. Redick's last season. Redick, on the Orlando Magic, was considered a nice role player. On a young and rebuilding Orlando Magic team, Redick saw increased minutes and a bigger role and he took advantage of that, posting career-highs in points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game and steals per game. Orlando sold high on Redick, trading him to the Milwaukee Bucks for the unknown Tobias Harris. In Orlando, Harris scored 17.3 points per game, 8.5 rebounds per game and 2.1 assists per game and is now considered a key building block for Orlando.

Now, Redick is very good at a specific skill while Hawes is not particularly exceptional at any one skill. But Hawes is younger than Redick was and he is big. Solid big men aren't easy to find. A contender could be willing to add Hawes, who has been previously considered a solid role player.

The 76ers most likely won't be going anywhere this season. They also don't have many pieces to improve the team.

Should Hawes keep his production at the current level, he could be worth moving at the trade deadline along with his expiring contract to get draft picks and young players that the 76ers can try out as they build to the future.

After reaching the conference semifinals, the team traded Andre Iguodala last offseason. Iggy was the team's only All-Star, a guy who had valuable playing experience with Team USA in the Olympics, was the glue-guy for a team that overachieved and was a fan-favorite.

Philadelphia traded him for a high-risk, high-reward center in Bynum. The move was an attempt to go from average and overachieving to a legitimate championship contender.

The Jrue Holiday trade to land the rights to Noel was certainly a surprise, especially as the 23-year-old was coming off an All-Star season.

So why would a rebuilding 76ers team think twice about trading an average Hawes should they be able to get any assets that could help in the team's overall development?

Hawes will get the playing time to showcase himself this season.

It may be best for all parties involved, though, if Hawes is showcasing himself for a team other than Philadelphia.

Phil Shore lives in New Jersey and is the creator and editor of Shore Thing Sports blog. He's been published in The Boston Globe, Philly.com, FoxSoccer.com, LaxMagazine.com and New England Lacrosse Journal.

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