A Healthy Body Is Not Enough For Hassan Whiteside

Hassan Whiteside took a gamble with his career when he signed with the Miami Heat. A late second round pick, Whiteside was drafted in 2010 and struggled to even become a rotation player with the Sacramento Kings. After spending two years in China, he was signed and subsequently waived by the Memphis Grizzlies, twice. Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra had nothing to lose when they signed him. Hassan may have well as had his last run at the NBA if he did not work out. Watching him during his early days at South Beach made it easy to fall in love with his athletic potential and physical presence. Few NBA centers – during the 2014-15 season – quite had the ability to run the floor and dominate on both ends of the floor. He literally swallowed up the ball when he blocked his opponent’s shots. This ability to command the game and endless potential earned him a 4 year, $98 million contract. Unfortunately, his game has yet to fully render itself and his inability to consistently have the right mentality has severely impacted his ability to impact a Miami team that is keen on winning.

Injuries and fitness issues plagued the center’s season. He missed 28 games during various points of the regular season and simply looked out of shape. It was uncomfortable – at times – to watch him labor his body up and down the court. Whiteside has even cited his injury as the main reason for why he is in and out of Spoelstra’s rotation. On the bright side, he has claimed that he has “completely healed” and now feels like his old self again. This is certainly a factor if he is to become a central part of Miami’s long-term plans. Health aside, Hassan Whiteside has never fully bought into the Heat system. While he was on his league minimum deal, he did as told though there were times where he was simply switched off on the floor. As a rim-protector, he is an excellent secondary defender with a majority of his blocks coming of his help defense. When tasked to defend opposing centers one-on-one, Whiteside has struggled. On the offensive end of the floor, he can be best described as bipolar. On any given night, he can change from being full of energy with the offense running through him to completely invisible in a matter of possession.

During the offseason, Whiteside has met with Spoelstra and Pat Riley. It seems they though they have re-established a relationship that was broken for most of the 2017-18 season. Both parties have come out with high hopes as they now seem to trust each other again. This is definitely a good sign with training camp starting in six weeks. One can only assume that Whiteside will see more minutes on the floor and a greater role. A talk with his Head Coach and President is a step in the right direction. The rest if on the player. Whiteside has make drastic strides to diversify his offensive game. At 29, he just has to realize that he will at best be a below-average player on the low post. Feeding him on the block has normally resulted in turnovers or terrible shots. Demanding the ball and eating up the shot clock to put up a lousy shot will only limit his game, and the Heat’s. Instead of working from right under the basket. Whiteside should focus on becoming an expert screen setter. His physical presence should give him plenty of easy buckets on the pick-and-roll and mismatches for other players to exploit.  

He has earned his money on the other end of floor. By averaging 12.1 RPB and 2.6 BPG with the Heat, Hassan sees himself as a viable candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. During the 2015-16 season, he led the NBA in blocks with 3.7 per game which earned him place on the All-NBA Defense team. The next season, he averaged a career high in rebounds and led the NBA with 14.1 per game. Whiteside’s ability to come from the weak side to swat shots is impressive. It’s a rare ability that few players possess with even fewer being able to do it with Hassan’s consistency. His main problem is his over reliance on his best defensive trait. This often leave his man wide open for easy shot or offensive rebounds. This compromises an otherwise excellent Miami defense.

Becoming a more selfless player will greatly improve his game and shows Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley that he cares about a lot more than just his individual numbers. Buying into their system is what got him a massive payday. Believing that he is a ball-dominant two way center is delusional. This season might be Whiteside’s last as a player who can bargain a large proportion of a team’s salary cap. At the end of the season, his contract was next to untradeable given that he will opt into the last year of his current deal. It is now or never for Hassan Whiteside. He can be a valuable player for the Heat, or their worst liability. The choice is to make.

 

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