The Miami Heat are in no-mans land right now, due in large part to injuries battering their team so far this season. At best, they’re the 7-seed no one wants to play. At worst, they’re a team who are going to flutter in mediocrity without adding any valuable young assets for at least a few years. Or at least that was the case until their savior showed up in the form of Hassan Whiteside. Or at least that’s what the Miami front office, media, and fans would have you believe.
I missed the legendary game against the Bulls, or at least missed seeing it on TV. But even listening to the radio broadcast I knew there was a player having a remarkable game, the kind that anyone would remember for a long time, let alone a D-League call up. When I finally saw the highlights, I was as impressed as Bill Wennington was on the call.
Suddenly, white his play over the past few months, he’s become regarded as the future of the Heat franchise. And now, reports are saying that the only untouchable players at the deadline are Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Whiteside.
Everyone other than Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh & Hassan Whiteside available from the Heat, a source said. The times have changed for Whiteside.
— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) February 19, 2015
It’s easy to see the upside with Whiteside. His springy legs and 7’7″ wingspan make him an ideal rebounder and rim protector. He’s averaging 13.5 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 10 games as a starter so far this year. Definitely solid numbers, especially when you consider that he’s going to be owed about $20,000 less than $1 million next year.
Whiteside’s most notable contribution has been his shot blocking. His 4.3 blocks per 36 is one of the best figures in the league, and he’s finally played enough games as to where it’s a valid stat. What’s been the biggest improvement for his has been his timing, something which I’ve heard multiple reporters say can’t be taught. Since when? Timing and positioning are the only aspects of shot blocking that you actually CAN teach. It’s the explosive athleticism that you either have or you don’t. Whiteside has it.
But still, does that make him the next Dwight Howard? In short, no. In fact, there’s a rather good chance that he’s not going to keep playing at this level. Just as Mo Williams isn’t going to score 51 points again this season and Courtney Lee wasn’t going to shoot 60% from 3 all season. This is a classic case of sell high vs. hope that the player gets even higher. When the Knicks failed to sell high on Iman Shumpert, they ended up getting Lou Amundson in return. And then there was Linsanity…
There’s no way to guarantee that Whiteside is going to fizzle out, but there’s also nothing to indicate this level of play should be the standard. The fact it’s surprising everyone around the league is proof of that. His 28.4 PER is off the charts, his 17% offensive rebound percentage is astonishing, and then there’s those blocks. But still, to not consider giving him up for a more established player seems a bit drastic, especially when you look at the gaping hole the Heat have at the league’s strongest position.
It’s also worth considering that between his recent play and his current contract, there will never be a time when his trade value is higher. Never. He could improve on these numbers, becoming one of the best centers the league has ever seen, but that means he’s going to sign a hefty extension and suddenly have to become a piece that a team has to shape their cap space around, instead of basically a free pawn they can move about.
Whiteside was signed too late in the season to be traded before the deadline, but if he keeps up this level of play, there’s no reason why the Heat should rule out moving him in the offseason. Otherwise, we may have another case of a hyped player catapulting a team into last place in the East.
Then again, this could be the one I really get wrong when Whiteside brings another title to Miami. But that’s the beauty of judging players based on less than a full season of play.