Hassan Whiteside is averaging an obscene 17.5 points, 14.5 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks.
If those numbers hold, he would become the second player in the last 27 years (Dwight Howard, three times) to average 17, 14, and 2 in a season. With his condor wingspan, above-the-rim game, and dynamic athleticism for a man of his size, he’s a tantalizing talent, offering enough potential to warrant a $98 million contract from the Miami Heat last summer.
While he has the look of a franchise cornerstone and the stats of an elite player, I think Pat Riley’s most impactful move as he rebuilds this bottoming out roster is to legitimately consider trading Hassan if the right deal comes along.
Here are five reasons why.
Can you contend with him?
At Whiteside’s best, he’s a shot-swatting menace capable of putting a lid on the rim (when he wants to) while providing potent efficiency in the pick-and-roll game as a role man (1.18 PPP). But considering his salary are those things enough to be a top two player on a contender?
While I think you can win a title with Whiteside as your starting center, it’s dubious you can win one if he’s your first, second, or even third best player (more on this later). His offense is largely dependent on someone else doing the creating.
Too often this season, “when he’s engaged” has to be thrown in as a qualifier with Hassan.
For as talented of a rebounder as he is, he still often gets caught out of position on the glass, lacking in fundamental areas like boxing out. He relies too much on his size and athleticism and often gets worked by inferior talents with jacked up motors like Steven Adams or highly skilled bigs like DeMarcus Cousins or Joel Embiid.
Even a Miami Heat employee, Ron Rothstein, called out Whiteside for coasting and showing “unacceptable” effort at times. Do you want a player like that as one of your cornerstone pieces?
Whiteside often displays soft touch around the rim but it hasn’t translated to a strong post game, where he’s shooting an incredibly inefficient 39 percent. He also can’t spread the floor.
In today’s NBA, if you’re a big who can’t shoot the three or score efficiently in the post, your team’s offense will be limited.
And for those saying his post game has fallen off due to the players around him, well, his post-up numbers weren’t anything special last year (45%) with half as many attempts on a team that went to the conference semifinals.
The NBA is in a new era
Touching on the previous issue, Mike D’Antoni made a great point this week when talking about the current evolution of NBA offenses.
Dan D'Antoni is a national treasure that must be preserved at all costs. "I haven't finished my damn analytics story yet." pic.twitter.com/ze3QUkQYxx
— Craig Meyer (@CraigMeyerPG) December 29, 2016
Whiteside can’t shoot threes, has been horrible from the line, and has no post game, with the latter being a generally inefficient shot anyway.
How can you win in this league with one of your best players doing that against teams hurl up super-efficient corner threes in bunches like the Warriors, Cavs, and Rockets?
Filling a need
While many mention Goran Dragic first when talking Heat players most likely to get traded, I’d dangle Whiteside before anyone else to see what type of value you can get.
A contender needs multiple players who can create offense off the dribble and shoot with efficiency — two areas where Dragic excels. What you don’t need in this league anymore is a true center. I still think signing him was the right move or else they would’ve lost an asset for nothing in return.
If the Heat can either acquire a proven superstar for a package that includes Whiteside or trade him for a pick in the top seven or eight in what’s expected to be a dynamic NBA Draft next year, I wouldn’t think twice.
It’s going to be VERY difficult snagging another team’s star outright in Free Agency with changes to the CBA making it financially irresponsible for a player to depart the team that drafted him and leave in the vicinity of $50 million-plus on the table.
It’s possible to contend in this league without elite big men, but the same cannot be said for special perimeter players. Right now, Miami’s lacking in the latter and if it’s going to take trading Hassan Whiteside to have a shot at one, so be it.