New Orleans Pelicans MLE Tournament: Spencer Hawes vs. Richard Jefferson

Published: June 6, 2014

In today’s MLE Tournament, Cavaliers’ big man Spencer Hawes  goes head-to-head with Jazz wing Richard Jefferson. Don’t forget to vote at the end, and for all the matchups so far, click here. 

Spencer Hawes (3 years for $22 million)

By Nick Lewellen

I picked Spencer Hawes because he might be the most interesting prospect in this entire tournament. Most of these guys are aging wing players, but Hawes is a youngish veteran big man. However, he doesn’t have a typical big man skill set. He is a legit 7 footer who can step outside and drain a 3. That’s pretty intriguing, right? Let me break down why he deserves your vote.


 1)   He is a center – He is a true center, and if we aren’t going to change our coach let’s adapt our roster to the coach. Monty wants to play a center next to AD. A guy that can matchup with bigger bodies down low, and keep AD from taking a beating. Hawes has the size at 7-1 and 245 lbs to do that. This may be his most important asset. Monty will play him.

 2)   He is a shooter – This team needs shooting, and Hawes can do that. There are points in his career when he hasn’t taken a lot of 3’s, but he has shot a nice rate and nice percent the last two seasons from deep.

 3)   He is a solid rebounder and great passer – He doesn’t get a lot of credit for it, but he has a nice career rebounding percent. It isn’t an elite skill, but it is still a plus. He is an elite passing big. Considering he’d spend a lot of time on the perimeter with AD working the inside, that would be a huge asset for the Pelicans offense.

 4)   The Young Veteran – He is 26, so his best basketball is ahead of him.

Here’s the argument you’ll hear against Spencer Hawes. First, he is too expensive. 7 million a year isn’t cheap, but is that really out of this world for a big man with a legitimate offensive skill set? Sure, we could hold our cards and try to make a move next year in what is allegedly deeper class, but then we have the same problem of finding the perfect asset for the right price. Also, if every GM feels it’s a deep class, then they will all be gunning for those assets. Multiple bidders tend to drive up prices. Frankly, there are no clear answers. That’s why this is tricky, though I will point out that he is a tradable asset. If we need to cut cap space, we can still do it.

Second, you’ll hear that Hawes isn’t a good defender. Well, he isn’t a great defender, but he is average. He gets the occasional block, but he isn’t great in the low post. There also aren’t a lot of great low post scorers out there, so that doesn’t really keep me up at night.

The last criticism and by far the most interesting one is that he is a lot like Ryan Anderson. Now, I have often argued that skill redundancy is a killer for a roster, but this is an odd case. First off, we haven’t seen Anderson play since his injury. I don’t expect the worst, but I wouldn’t mind planning for it. He is also much bigger than Anderson, which will allow us to use him differently at key situations in a game. Lastly, there are some benefits from a having two guys that do similar things. For one, it means that both our first and second units can run some of the same plays due to staggering when each guy is in the game. That means they might not play together, but it also means we won’t have a gigantic three point shooting drop off like we did in the past.

Having said all of that, the choice is pretty clear to me. Sure, Jefferson can shoot, but he is 33. What else does he give you? And does he really want to be a situation like we have in New Orleans, or does he want to chase rings (hint: he says he wants to chase rings)? Now, he may not have many suitors, and we could be the best situation for him. But is it really to our benefit to sign a possible “keep gettin them checks” guy to our young looker room? I say no.

Here is the choice.  Give an aging former role player a one-year contract to play a few minutes a game, hope he is happy here, and hope he makes a positive impact on the team. Or we could give a young talented veteran a multi year deal. The latter has a bit more risk, but I’ll take it every time. Why? It actually has the chance of producing a reward.


Richard Jefferson (1 year for $3 million)

by Joe Gerrity

It’s important to note that what this matchup is really about– flexibility vs inflexibility. Paying lots of money to a younger mediocre player, or paying less money over a shorter time frame to an older mediocre player. We’ve promised not to spend too much time bashing our opposition, so instead I’ll just bash the differences between the two situations.

On one hand we can give 22 million dollars over three years to a bench-caliber “center” whose biggest impact will come on the offensive end as a shooter. If you’re scoring at home, this would be the third big man on our roster who can shoot the rock, but Hawes isn’t as good as Ryno from far, and isn’t a particularly good complement to AD elsewhere.

While he is technically a big man who blocks shots (1.2 last season in over 30 minutes per game), he’s a woeful defender. Last year Zach Lowe called Hawes’ performance against the Cavs (who later traded for him) “a masterpiece of not giving a f***.” We all remember Monty’s famous press conference where he went off on Dell for not signing more guys on the roster who don’t give a f*** on defense, so clearly this is a perfect fit.

When Hawes was on the court last year for the Cavs (supposedly playing well enough for them to go ahead and say that re-signing him is a top priority) his team was terrible. They allowed an absurd 109.2 points per 100 possessions when Hawes was on the court compared to just 98.9 points per 100 when he was riding the pine! While Jefferson is no stud defender, the on/off differential is nowhere near double digits.

Offensively though he must have had a positive impact though, right?

Haha. No.

When Spencer Hawes was on the floor the Cavs scored 104.8 points per 100 possessions. When he sat the bench that number jumped up to 105.7.

So there you have it. Spencer Hawes, playing some of the best basketball of his career, somehow was able to make the terrible Cavaliers even worse on both ends of the floor simply by playing for them. I’ll spare you the 100,000 words I had prepared on just how depressed I would be if we actually signed Spencer Hawes for 22 million over three years, and instead let you feel it for yourself.

The Pelicans have come to terms with Spencer Hawes on a three year-22 million dollar contract.

The Pelicans have come to terms with Spencer Hawes on a three year-22 million dollar contract.

The Pelicans have come to terms with Spencer Hawes on a three year-22 million dollar contract.

Did a Spencer Hawes ghost just show up in the mirror?


Regardless, admit that you’re scared of us blowing our future by tying so much money to a guy traded last year for two second round picks, Henry Sims and Earl Clark. I could end this right here and simply say the alternative is feeding three million dollars to an alligator and you’d be all like, “Sounds reasonable… alligator gotta eat”.

Fortunately we don’t even have to turn our money into alligator grub, and we can actually spend those three million dollars over one year and wind up with a veteran stopgap at the small forward position as we bide our time until the much stronger free agent class of 2015 hits the market.

Given that the mid-level exception is well north of 3 million, and that we are allowed to split it between multiple players, Jefferson isn’t the only guy we can add to the roster if we play our cards right. As an expiring contract, Jefferson could also theoretically have some value when the trade deadline comes, especially if he plays alright during the year.

Ok, let’s get to what Richard Jefferson has to offer on the court– shooting. We keep talking about how crucial it is to surround Tyreke Evans and Anthony Davis with shooters, and Richard Jefferson remains a knock-down three point launcher. He’s over 37% for his career and last season his nearly 41% mark was good for 16th in the league. It was the third time in the last four seasons that he surpassed the 40% mark, so it’s not like this is some sort of fluke. As he has aged, Jefferson has improved his long range game, and he’s pretty damn good from almost everywhere behind the arc.

RJ shot chart

To paraphrase McNamara, imagine being a defense as Tyreke drives and you have AD at the rim with Jrue and Ryno on the wings and Richard Jefferson in either corner. What are you going to do?

While looking at the shot chart there’s one other thing that stands out to me– Jefferson has damn good shot selection. He avoids mid-range jumpers like the plague, and focuses almost the entirety of his offensive game shooting either next to the rim or from behind the arc. In fact, over 74% of Jefferson’s shots came either at the rim or behind the arc. That’s probably my favorite stat about Jefferson, and in all seriousness it’s the one that made me really come around to the idea of having him on the roster.

Another positive aspect of RJ is his ability to stay on the floor. Despite being roughly as old as the game of basketball itself (33 years), Jefferson started 78 games for the Jazz last year and played all 82. No, seriously. He didn’t get hurt. That’s a thing that can happen.

In closing, just don’t overthink this one.

[polldaddy poll=8105249]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.