Hawes, 26, spent last season with the Sixers and Cavaliers, sent from Philadelphia to Cleveland in a trade deadline move. A 7-foot center known for his outside touch and his right-leaning politics, and not known for his defensive abilities, Hawes averaged 13.2 points and 8.3 rebounds last season, while shooting 41.6 percent from deep on nearly four three-point attempts per game. He was the only player 6-foot-10 or taller who shot better than 40 percent on a qualified number of attempts last season.
SI.com ranked Hawes as one of the top centers in this year's class, placing him at No. 25 on our "Top 25 free agents of 2014" list.
The 2007 first-round pick out of Washington has the vast majority of his seven-year career playing on lottery-bound teams. With this deal, he will trade a starting role on a poor team for a back-up job on one of the Western Conference's strongest outfits. He slides in nicely as a third big man behind center DeAndre Jordan and All-Star power forward Blake Griffin, and he provides a real measure of talent and stability to a Clippers frontline that has been lacking in both behind its starters.
Hawes reportedly drew interest from a number of suitors this summer, and he appears to have sacrificed a maximum per-year pay day in exchange for a long-term home on a team built to win now. In 2012, he signed a two-year, $13.1 million contract with the Sixers, and his play over the last two seasons has warranted more than mid-level money. This summer's free agency period has yet to produce many four-year contracts, though, so Hawes stands out from the middle of the pack when it comes to total salary.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers should be close to ecstatic, considering the circumstances that have enveloped his franchise in recent months and his roster's lacking frontcourt depth. Hawes adds a new dimension to L.A.'s bench, and he is a vast upgrade over the endless cycle of frontcourt stop-gaps like Ryan Hollins, Ronny Turiaf, Byron Mullens and Glen Davis that have been used in recent years.
It's not clear how the Clippers could have made better use of their mid-level exception this summer if adding a center was their top priority. The only other seven-footers ranked above Hawes on SI.com's "Top 25 Free Agents of 2014" list were Marcin Gortat (who re-signed for $60 million over five years) and Pau Gasol (who is generating interest from all sides, including multiple contenders). With Chris Paul and Griffin both locked in for multiple years, adding a player like Hawes on a longer-term deal makes more sense than pursuing a lesser player like Chris Kaman, who agreed to a shorter deal with Portland at a similar price level on Friday. The best available names were Hawes and Channing Frye, who is five years older than Hawes, missed the entire 2012-13 season with a heart problem, and has a strong incumbent team in the mix for his services, potentially taking him out of the mid-level salary discussion.
There's no question that Rivers will need to get to work on masking Hawes' major defensive limitations immediately: the Cavaliers posted an atrocious 109.2 defensive rating when he was on the court compared to a 98.9 defensive rating when he was off the court, albeit in only 27 games. Hawes might not be a paint-protecting force defensively, but he does bring an element of raw size that the Clippers' reserves were missing last season. More importantly, Hawes' ability to shoot from outside should limit the amount of extra attention paid to Griffin when the two players share the court. He is also a capable free-throw shooter -- even if he doesn't get to the line that often -- which is handy given Jordan's major issues at the stripe.
A seven-footer with proven skills -- even one with proven weaknesses -- is a liquid asset, so L.A. doesn't need to fret too much over the length of the contract. Hawes has been very durable over the course of his career -- aside from missing a good chunk of the 2011-12 with back and Achilles injuries -- and that likely played a role in the Clippers' willingness to go a full four years.