The 2018 NBA Offseason is slowing to a crawl, and the Miami Heat still have disgruntled center Hassan Whiteside on their roster. Is there a way that the two parties can put the past behind them in 2018-19?
The messy relationship between the Miami Heat and center Hassan Whiteside has yet to be resolved this summer. Offseason moves have slowed down, leaving the lumbering center without a new home for the 2018-19 season. Without a willing trade partner, the Heat and Whiteside will be forced to work through their differences.
Last season’s strife climaxed in a post-game outburst from the seven-foot center after the Heat dropped a game to the Nets in March. Whiteside’s tirade wasn’t over the loss exclusively, as his frustrations stemmed from his role with the team. Miami fined Whiteside for his actions and continued to decrease his minutes as the season progressed. Things hit rock bottom in the playoffs, as the former Marshall standout recorded a meager 15.4 minutes per game in five contests against the 76ers.
Whiteside’s contract will be tough to move in a trade. The market for traditional centers is drying up, which almost guarantees that he will opt-in to his player option for the 2019-20 season. If he does opt-in, Whiteside will make over $50 million for the final two years of his deal.
Barring a major change, Miami’s best option will come in the form of trying to meet their big man in the middle.
Let the Big Fella Shoot
One of the biggest problems facing teams playing traditional centers is floor spacing. Whiteside has only attempted two three-pointers in his NBA career (both makes coincidentally). Without a proven body of work, Miami won’t be relying fully on their disgruntled center for outside shooting. But that doesn’t mean they can’t test the waters.
After the Heat fell to the Sixers in a 4-1 drubbing in the opening round of the playoffs, Whiteside took to social media to show off his shooting talents.
Hassan Whiteside wants to clear a few things up about his jumper: "There's a difference between you *can't* shoot and you're *not allowed*" pic.twitter.com/BHq3SSRDQ1
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) May 23, 2018
Outside of taking a direct shot at the Heat’s coaching staff, Whiteside displayed a decent shot for a big man. Miami shouldn’t make it a habit to appease unhappy players, but giving Whiteside an occasional green light from beyond the arc wouldn’t be the end of their offense.
The Heat were nearly a top ten team in three-point field goals made in 2017-18, and they could easily make the jump with Whiteside chipping in occasionally. Along with outside shooting, a floor-spacing center would open up other parts of the offense. Whiteside was a mediocre offensive performer when utilized in post ups, spot ups, and as a roll man. Adding another dimension could give him a boost in all three of those situations.
If Whiteside achieves some level of respectability from outside, it will make him a dual-threat screener. He is already a threat as a rim-running big man, but he could potentially create more space for himself if he proves he can hit pick-and-pop jump shots. The Heat already utilize these plays in rotations that feature Kelly Olynyk. If it makes the big man happy, Miami could easily call Whiteside’s number a few times in the first quarter.
Back to Basics
Whiteside is only two years removed from leading the NBA in blocked shots. His 1.7 blocks per game in 2017-18 were a far cry from his eye-popping 3.7 average in 2015-16. Getting Whiteside back in the paint on defense and making it easy should be the Heat’s No. 1 priority. Keeping things simple will require the Heat to find an alternative to switching to mitigate opponent’s three-point shooting. A handful of teams have found ways to remain effective on defense while deploying a less-mobile rim protector. The margin for error is small, but it could get Whiteside to engage in other parts of the game if he feels at home on defense.
Snatching rebounds, altering shots, and recording blocks put Whiteside on the map. Returning to that recipe might be the quickest way to mend fences between Miami and their center.
Giving Whiteside what he wants on the court is a huge risk for the Heat. If Miami appeases the wishes of Whiteside, it won’t be long before another unhappy player demands the same treatment. Making a disgruntled player happy shouldn’t come at the expense of Bam Adebayo’s development. Balancing between the monetary investment of Whiteside’s remaining contract with the first-round selection of Adebayo leaves the Heat with little room for error.
The best hope for a solution might occur at the trade deadline. If a modified role on both ends of the court can’t fix the relationship between Whiteside and Miami, perhaps a change of scenery would.
*Stats courtesy of NBA.com. Salary figures courtesy of Early Bird Rights.