When the NBA Free Agency floodgates thrust open next summer it’s no secret Hassan Whiteside will be looking to get paid, whether it be by the Miami Heat or another franchise willing to proffer the cash for a rising big man in a surging financial market.
With the salary cap estimated to rise in the vicinity of $20 million (it’s $70M today), there will be plenty of teams out there throwing full-length maximum contracts at the best shot-blocking center in the Association. DeAndre jumperless Jordan is making $20 million this year… Barring Whiteside sleeping with the commissioner’s wife the man is in for a massive contract.
The question, as his team struggles to play well with him on the floor while he continues to sit out entireties of fourth quarters, becomes whether Miami is better off without carving deep into their cap space to retain him. Despite Whiteside’s plethora of positive individual metrics — he leads the league in blocks, ranks fourth in rebound percentage, ranks fourth in Defensive Box Plus/Minus, ranks 10th in PER and is the Heat’s second highest rated player in ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus — the Heat is currently 10.5 points better per 100 possessions with Whiteside riding pine. It’s bizarre, early, and foolish to look too deep into on/off metrics but it’s still odd to see the team perform better upon his disappearance.
The One-Year Max?
The following solution is a speculative one because I don’t have a clue what the seven-footer is looking for and there are many variables. For one, we don’t know if Kevin Durant is interested in Miami. Signing him would terminate Whiteside’s Heat life.
We also don’t know if the Heat will begin to thrive as a team around his presence. This is funky roster with tons of talent but oddly shaped parts. It’s Erik Spoelstra’s job to maximize what he has and one can rationally argue it’s up to him to make Whiteside’s role work. After all, a dynamic seven-footer fell from the clouds — FOR PENNIES.
What we do know for certain is he’s not interested in sitting on his ass in the game’s most critical moments. If that trend is to continue, the question of retaining him will be a moot point and they might as well put him on the trade block immediately. Orlando fetched some solid pieces for Dwight Howard, who was on an expiring contract at the time.
One idea: Convince Hassan to take a one-year maximum contract.
It makes sense for both sides. With the salary cap expecting to spike again the following summer it would allow for him to snag an even larger payday in the long-term. For the Heat, it allows the organization to continue to experiment around the idea of having him as a core pillar without the long-term commitment.
Of course Whiteside could be looking to maximize every potential penny this summer — nobody should blame him — but there’s a plausibility of him playing the slow game and maxing out his career earnings, just as LeBron may ride one-year max deals til’ the end of days in The Land
of Endless Winter and eternal misery. At the very least, Whiteside could be convinced to mitigate the risk of a shorter deal by taking a one-year contract with a player option for Year 2.
Barring a Durant-to-Miami miracle this summer, both sides to need to do everything possible to make this relationship work. As it stands today, the one-year max is the wise move in the interest of both Whiteside and the Heat.
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