NBA Free Agency
Hassan Whiteside may be the most impactful player on the market in 2016 not named Kevin Durant. The 27 year old center is coming off of the best season of his career averaging 14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and nearly for 4 blocks a game. Whiteside has been improving for the last three years in the league. He has elevated his post presence and has developed a trustworthy hook shot in the paint instead of just a rebounder who scores on put backs. The problem is unlike the other big men available this year; Whiteside may also be the biggest unknown. He was not been consistent in his time in the league. He has questions about his motor and maturity that sometimes show him taking plays off and has games where he is not the elite rim protector that he has the skills to be. At his best, Whiteside is a force in the paint and a game changing presence on defense that forces shooters to second guess coming down the lane, but there are questions as to whether Whiteside’s stats are somewhat empty. The Heat grabbed a higher percentage of defensive boards with Whiteside off the court, and Miami’s defensive rating dropped by less than a point with Whiteside on the bench. There is no questioning his raw athleticism and ability. Whiteside is a lob target all game long and puts defenses on their heels in transition and when charging toward the basket. He also improved his free throw shooting over the last year to a respectable 65% making him less of a target for hacking fouls.
The biggest issue for Hassan Whiteside is he is 27 years old. By no means out of his prime, but old enough that some teams are left wondering whether or not he tapped out of his potential. It’s difficult to project if he will progress like someone else who has only played less than two full seasons in his career. Whiteside’s post-All-Star break improvement was encouraging last season, but he’s likely to plateau sooner rather than later. Whoever signs him will be putting a lot of faith in their coaches to finish his development. Right now Hassan Whiteside has 4 main suitors; the Lakers, Heat, Blazers, and Mavericks.
Los Angeles Lakers – The situation in Los Angeles is not fully fleshed out. There are questions about the type of offense that Luke Walton will implement with his young core. If he bases his offense like the Warriors team he came from, Whiteside will not make much sense as a ball-stopping center as he lacks the passing ability to find teammates. Whiteside also doesn’t line-up well with Julius Randle as the lack of shooting among the pair will extremely clog the paint. The Lakers are a team known for having marquee centers but with an evolving young nucleus that may be 3 years away from contention in the West, it is unclear how well Hassan Whiteside fits in purple and gold.
Miami Heat – Miami is where Whiteside is most known. He has proven to be productive on the Heat roster; however a large contingent in the future is the health of Chris Bosh. Whiteside will command max money, but pairing him on the floor with Bosh does not work. I could see Miami leaning toward the understanding that Bosh may never be fully healthy with his serious medical concerns, and Whiteside was an integral part of their late season surge last year. If Whiteside never sprained his knee in the playoffs, he potentially could have helped Miami reach the East Finals—no small feat without Bosh. Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra know Whiteside the most which could be important in dealing with his attitude, but his fit in terms of scheme may not be the best for the young center or Miami.
Portland Trail Blazers – Portland is in need of an impact center to pair with their talented backcourt of CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard after losing LaMarcus Aldridge last year. Whiteside would be a huge improvement defensively for the Blazers as their lack of rim protection was their Achilles heel in the playoffs. Whiteside could also be a scary pick and roll combo with Lillard and McCollum as well as feasting on rebounds from Portland’s shot heavy offense. I could see the lack of touches being frustrating for Whiteside, but his maximum potential on offense mirrors that of DeAndre Jordan on the Clippers and I could see similar production and impact for him in Portland. Portland would also give him another chance to compete in the Playoffs something that would not be guaranteed if he chooses Los Angeles or Dallas.
Dallas Mavericks – If Hassan Whiteside is looking to be the “Man” on a team, and have the focus of the offense and defense run through him, then Dallas is his best destination. After their widely publicized free agency fiasco with DeAndre Jordan last year, the Mavericks are once again on the market for top big men talent. Whiteside would operate similar to Tyson Chandler in Dallas’s championship season; his largest impact would be his rim protection and presence on defense and offensively Rick Carlisle has the skills and aptitude to coach Hassan into a force. The Mavericks do have other holes on their roster that could be worrying for Whiteside. They lack a true point guard to run the offense efficiently and the Mavericks’ veteran players like Dirk and JJ Barea could become frustrated with Whiteside’s inconsistent motor and overall poor decision making. Still, I see Dallas as the best opportunity for Whiteside to be the focal point of the team even if it may not be his best chance to compete for championships.