Hassan Whiteside continues to be an enigma.
This is despite the 7-foot specimen racking up an All-Star stat line through 42 games, averaging 16.9 points, 13.9 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks while shooting 55 percent from the floor. This is despite emitting the type of athletic prowess that routinely kicks your jaw to the floor.
Then there are games like Wednesday night, where the team is a minus-30 with him and a plus-34 with his backup — a 68-point swing — in a win.
If we peel back the layers and dig deeper into the $98 million man’s game, we’ll find some disturbing trends, most notably on offense and none more egregious than with his back to the basket.
Whiteside’s post game has been abysmal.
His 0.73 points per possession in this area ranks 24th among the 25 players to qualify (minimum of three possessions per game), per NBA.com. It wouldn’t be as big of an issue if nearly a third of his offense didn’t source from post.
Even if Whiteside marginally improves here, it doesn’t help matters much because the post-up has been exposed as one of the most inefficient plays in basketball. He’s far more impactful as a secondary scoring option, off cuts (1.3 PPP), put-backs (1.19 PPP), and as the roll man in pick-and-roll situations (1.15 PPP).
It’s a little strange because Whiteside has an array of post moves and shows touch inside but it hasn’t translated to any semblance of efficiency so far. Hassan is better off chucking jumpers in the 16-to-24-feet range, where his 45 percent shooting — a strong number for this area for any player, even guards — dwarfs his 41 percent from the post.
Whiteside’s main impact comes on defense, where he’s among the league’s best rim protectors and deterrents, allowing just 50 percent shooting from opponents within six feet, per NBA.com, an elite number which ranks 11 percentage points worse than his opponents’ collective average inside.
Whiteside is unequivocally the most important cog of the NBA’s eighth most efficient defense, as he’s present on eight of Miami’s 10 best defensive three-man lineups (minimum of 200 minutes).
Looking at NBA Math’s Total Points Added model, Whiteside is the Heat’s best player in regards to Defensive Points Saved (+39) but the worst in Offensive Points Added (-75), representing a net negative overall of minus-36.02. Whiteside’s backup, Willie Reed, fares similarly in regards to hurting the offense while helping the defense, but his overall minus-2.05 ranks fifth best on the squad and wasn’t as damaging overall as Whiteside’s minus-36.02.
Part of the reason the Heat has often played better overall with Reed, in smaller samples, is because he busts his ass on every possession and maximizes his limited role as a rebounder, screener, and energy rod. He gives them a lot of what Whiteside does without inefficiently using up a chunk of their offense and at a fraction of the cost — $1 million vs. $22 million. It opens up the court for more efficient sources of scoring, such as uncontested corner threes, potent drives from Goran Dragic, and whatever the hell Dion Waiters has been doing lately.
So where does that leave us overall? I still think Hassan makes the Heat better, especially in playoff-game scenarios, where the offense slows down and the value of a rim protector rises. But his offensive shortcomings, most notably his inability to create efficient scoring opportunities, in addition to his unpredictable effort, makes his overall impact a marginal one. His 55-percent free throw shooting has also regressed to the point where he’s a liability in late-game situations.
All of this would be fine if he was a rookie or second-year player but he’s in the prime of his career at 27 years old and making $22 million a season. Despite the juicy numbers and flashes of greatness, Hassan Whiteside hasn’t come close to living up to his contract.
Whiteside has All-Star numbers this season but it hasn’t come close to translating to an All-Star impact, and Pat Riley would be wise to shop him hard in advance of the 2017 NBA Draft.