What to Do With Hassan Whiteside?
*Photo via USA Today
Hassan Whiteside has had one of the more unorthodox ascents to stardom in NBA history. Whiteside played just one season at Marshall before declaring for the NBA Draft. In his lone collegiate season, Whiteside led the entire nation with 5.4 BPG. Whiteside had the talent to be a lottery pick, but he fell all the way to the Sacramento Kings in the 2nd round (33rd overall) of the 2010 draft. Some teams were concerned with his poor free throw shooting and lack of polish on the offensive end, but this is not the real reason that Whiteside slipped in the draft. Many big men have been drafted early with these concerns. The real reason Whiteside wasn’t drafted until the 2nd round was his unpredictable behavior. Executives have pinned him as immature and a hot head, and Whiteside has done little to prove them wrong.
In his first 100 games as a member of the Miami Heat, Whiteside has already had many embarrassing cases of malcontent behavior. Last month Whiteside was suspended a game for elbowing Spurs center Boban Marjanovic in the face. Last season, Whiteside was suspended a game for blindsiding Celtics big man Kelly Olynyk and ejected from another contest for tackling Suns center Alex Len. Despite this poor behavior, Whiteside’s immense talent is undeniable. Whiteside was waived from the Kings after two seasons and appeared in just 19 games. In those two seasons, Whiteside spent the majority of his time in the D-League. Whiteside was waived in 2012, and would not make it back into the league until 2014. Whiteside signed a contract with the Grizzlies only to be waived, re-signed, and then waived again.
A couple of months later, Whiteside’s fortunes finally took a turn for the better when he signed with the Heat. Whiteside spent another short stint in the D-League, and was later recalled to the Heat on December 15, 2014. Since this date Whiteside has remained with the Heat and has become one of the top centers in the league. In the beginning of February, after his 1-game suspension and hip injury, Whiteside has started to come off the bench. The timing of Coach Erik Spoelstra’s decision to move Whiteside to the bench was interesting given that fellow Heat big man Chris Bosh was lost indefinitely due to a blood clot. This apparent demotion has paid off huge dividends for both Whiteside and the Heat. Whiteside’s numbers and minutes have remained strong coming off the bench, and the Heat have somehow looked better since losing Bosh. Perhaps Whiteside’s adaption to the bench role is a sign that the 26 year-old is finally starting to mature.
Regardless of what you think of him, Whiteside’s talent and potential are impossible to ignore. This season, Whiteside is averaging 13.3 PPG while shooting 61% from the field (3rd in the NBA), grabbing 11.7 RPG (4th in the NBA), and recording 3.9 BPG (1st in the NBA). Whiteside is the only player to record a triple double with blocks this season, and he has accomplished the feat three times.
*Photo via USA Today
The Miami Heat are going to be one of the more interesting teams to follow this summer. The Heat only have $49 Million committed in salary for 2016-17 season. The players under contract for the following season are Chris Bosh, Goran Dragic, Josh McRoberts, Justise Winslow, and Josh Richardson. This season, the salary cap is set at about $70 Million, and many expect it to jump to $90 Million next season. Even with this rise in the cap, the Heat may have no cap space left if they decide to resign both Dwayne Wade and Whiteside. That means that Pat Riley and the rest of the Heat’s top management will have to decide if a team of Wade, Whiteside, and the other players signed through 2016-17 is good enough to contend. The Heat could resign Wade and Whiteside and hope that the cap goes up another $20 Million or so in 2017-18 as many expect. This would allow them to add another piece that season. Relying on 2017-18 free agency would be a risky move on Miami’s part. If Whiteside and Wade sign max deals, the Heat may still not have enough cap room to offer a max contract in 17-18. Waiting this long to add another piece is risky with Miami’s veteran core. By the 2017-18 season, Dwayne Wade will be 36, Chris Bosh will be 33, and Goran Dragic will be 31. In addition, it is hard to know Bosh’s future with his recurring blood clots. The Heat also owe the 76ers a top-10 protected 1st round pick this season, and the Suns a top-7 protected 2018 1st round pick and a unprotected 2021 1st round pick. This will make building through the draft a near impossible option.
In my opinion, the Heat should keep Whiteside. Other than Kevin Durant, you could make a legitimate argument that Whiteside will be the top unrestricted free agent on the market this summer. So unless Miami can convince Durant to come to South Beach, the Heat will be unable to upgrade on Whiteside. The Heat should resign Wade and Whiteside and also look to keep Tyler Johnson, who will be a restricted free agent. If possible, the Heat should look to retain as many of the wing trio of Luol Deng, Gerald Green, and Joe Johnson as they can. No matter which or how many of these three are brought back for next season, Justise Winslow will need to take on an expanded role. If the Heat are healthy they can easily compete with and defeat any team in the East, including the Cavs.
Unfortunately, Miami has had bad injury luck. They have already lost Tyler Johnson and Beno Udrih for the season, and it is unclear if and when Bosh will come back. Other players, like Wade and McRoberts, have an extensive injury history. With so much uncertainty surrounding the roster in the coming seasons, the Heat should do all they can to lock up a 26 year old with all-star talent like Whiteside.
*Stats and Info Courtesy of BBall reference and ESPN