Spencer Hawes Traded to Cleveland: Cavaliers Stay The Course

via flickr | Basketball Schedule

via flickr | Basketball Schedule

Multiple league sources have confirmed that the Philadelphia 76ers have traded Spencer Hawes to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for two 2014 second-round draft picks, Earl Clark, and Henry Sims.

The deal, first reported by Yahoo! Sports, falls perfectly in-line with the unabashed approach to rebuilding taken by Philadelphia since it swapped Jrue Holiday on draft-day in June. Clark, unsurprisingly, never lived up to the rich contract he signed with Cleveland as a free agent last summer, but that hardly matters to the Sixers. The second and final year of Clark’s $8.5 million deal is fully unguaranteed if he’s waived by July 7th, an option that Philadelphia – focused solely on the development of its young core and conservative cap management – will undoubtedly exercise. Sixers GM Sim Hinkie and company face the same choice with Sims: his minimum-salary contract is unguaranteed for 2014-2015, too. Sims may stand a better chance of sticking in the City of Brotherly Love than Clark, but this trade was never about the on-hand talent returning for the 76ers.

The value of second-round picks has increased seemingly every season over recent years, and parameters of the new CBA have added extra weight to the worth of players performing at a higher level than their modest rookie contracts suggest. It’s been proven time and again, too, that impact players can be found in the draft’s latter half: Lance Stephenson, Chandler Parsons, and Isaiah Thomas are just the latest examples of second-round gems. So whether or not Philadelphia uses these picks to draft players of their choosing or as additional means to an end-game in future trades is mostly irrelevant; Hinkie has added a pair of assets to his growing stable of them. The 76ers now have four second-round picks to work with in June, plus their own first round choice and a pick from New Orleans they’ll receive if it falls outside of the draft’s first five selections. Flexibility and patience, clearly, remains the name of the game for Philly, and rightfully so.

Those second-round picks are unquestionably valuable in a vacuum, but context still muddies their worth to a specific team one way or another. Cleveland, boasting three such choices before completing today’s trade, had latitude that organizations without extra draft assets sorely lack. These picks just didn’t matter as much to the Cavaliers as they would some other teams, especially given their win-now approach to the present and future.

Acquiring Hawes for a quarter on the dollar is the latest manifestation of that plan. Say what you will about his politics – I’ll refrain in the interest of avoiding bias  – but Hawes is a clear upgrade for Cleveland’s frontcourt on multiple levels. Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller, and Anthony Bennett aren’t gangbusters but hardly lack for talent. Redundancy and inconsistency plague the Cavaliers’s big men, deficiencies owed to youth and health concerns that the presence of Hawes will help mask. His three-point shooting affords Cleveland offensive space the others – despite Varejao’s supreme improvement from mid-range – can’t, and he’s helpful as a passer and rim-protector, too. The simple fact that this gives Mike Brown an opportunity to pair Varejao alongside a proven commodity can’t be discounted, either. Thompson, Zeller, and Bennett are various combinations of underwhelming, unpredictable, and undersized; Hawes might fall under the former category, but not either of the two latter ones.

The Cavaliers have won six straight games since GM Chris Grant was fired on February 6th, positioning themselves just three games behind Charlotte for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. After this sudden surge, Cleveland wasn’t going to tank for another chance at a franchise player come summertime. Hawes can help the Cavs for the remainder of this season and does nothing to limit their flexibility going forward – he’s a free agent at the end of the year.

A manageable price, immediate upside, and no future salary ramifications? Keeping its win-win-win goals in mind, this is a clear boon for Cleveland. There’s certainly an argument to be made that the Cavaliers should be on a more patient path – Luol Deng is likely off the block and will probably bolt in free agency, for instance – a la their trade partners in Philadelphia, but Dan Gilbert has been guiding them this direction since insisting that last year would be their final appearance at the lottery. Acquiring Hawes is the latest small step in assuring that boast proves prophetic.

*Statistical support for this post provided by nba.com/stats.

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Jack Winter