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In the league's changing landscape, Hawes may be worth holding on to

Spencer Hawes is a free agent after this season, hooray! But wait, should the Sixers consider holding on to Hawes?

Spencer Hawes is a free agent after this season, hooray!

Finally, the Sixers can clear that contract from the books!

But wait, should the Sixers consider holding on to Hawes?

It is an idea that I never would have entertained a couple short seasons ago, as Hawes struggled to stay out on the court for Coach Doug Collins, and looked lost a lot of the time when he was able to avoid injury issues.

However, his improving play and the continuing league-wide trend toward small-ball and speed make Hawes' skill set especially intriguing, and one that might be worth holding on to.

There is little doubt that Hawes' market value will be elevated in the offseason if he continues his impressive play, and while it would not be wise for the Sixers to break the bank on him, it may also be unwise to let him walk without some contract consideration.

The Sixers are paying Hawes $6.5 million this season, and based on his production so far, that is basically a bargain (relative of course). Hawes is posting career-highs across the board, highlighted by averages of 16 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, and over a block a game. He has been extremely efficient as well, shooting over 50% from the field, serving as the Sixers' leading three-point threat.

Hawes currently ranks 11th overall in rebounding, and is tied for second in assists among centers, behind only the gifted Gasols.

More important than simply stats however, is what Hawes can bring to the Sixers, or any NBA team, in the league's changing landscape. The days of traditional back-to-the-basket bigs, who receive an entry pass half way into the shot clock and then go to work backing down a defender, are all but gone. When you look around the league now, you don't see the Patrick Ewings and Hakeem Olajuwons. Instead, you are starting to see many more bigs in the mold of Dirk Nowitzki; guys who can contribute all over the court, and certainly aren't bound to the block. Look at the past two teams to win the title; both did it without the dominance of a traditional center. Big guys are now looked to for floor spacing, shooting, speed and athleticism; all strong suits for Spence, as opposed to the bulking and banging.

With 23 made three's through 13 games this season, Spencer's shooting skills alone makes him valuable. An efficient three-point shooter is a weapon no matter what, as defensive players have to stay close and honor the shooter's ability to stroke. An efficient three point shooting center can be even more deadly and dangerous, as they draw defenders out of the paint and open up the court for teammates. By providing a legitimate threat from long range, opposing centers who are accustomed to patrolling the paint are drawn all the way out to the arc, leaving the paint open for attack.  Hawes has done this consistently all season thus far, opening up opportunities for Michael Carter-Williams, Evan Turner, and Tony Wroten, among others. Hawes' ability to create space for others is illustrated nicely in this post from Liberty Ballers. On a team with a couple deadly drivers, which the Sixers will likely develop into, having a center that can shoot and space the floor becomes invaluable.

Hawes ability to pass the ball will serve as another asset. Hawes possesses good court vision and can make a pass with his back to the basket, or by swinging it around the perimeter. He is also an excellent outlet passer, and ignites many fast break opportunities for the Sixers by looking down court immediately after securing a defensive rebound. His ability to move the ball around prevents an offense from stagnating, as they sometimes do when a center secures the ball. This talent perfectly complements the up-tempo trend emerging in the NBA.

Hawes is also an improving rebounder who currently ranks fifth in the NBA with a 56.7% rebound percentage.

Add in the fact that Hawes is a decent defender (he can literally form a ten foot tall wall with his arms up), and at least semi-athletic (he can get up and down the floor, and just last night under the basket, with his back to the baseline, I saw him secure a short offensive rebound with one hand, bring it back up and draw a foul; an impressively athletic move), and you get the picture of a pretty complete player.

Spencer Hawes possesses a unique skill set. While it may have landed him with the 'soft' label earlier in his career, it is also perfectly in sync with the developing direction of the league. A multi-tooled center who can shoot and space the floor will continue to be a commodity, as there simply aren't that many of them. As the game continues its up-tempo trend, a skill set like Spencer's will become increasingly valuable.

Brett Brown has already stated that he could see Hawes playing alongside prized yet injured rookie Nerlens Noel, as Hawes' perimeter aptitude could serve as a great compliment to a more interior-oriented big.

As the league continues to trend towards speed and shooting, Hawes has already demonstrated that he can operate well in the Sixers' new up-tempo system. If he can continue to open opportunities for others, and thrive under Brett Brown, then the Sixers will have to give some serious consideration to bringing him back.