One of the more sought after players of this free agency is Hassan Whiteside, who could stay with the Miami Heat, but is also commanding serious interest from the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, Dallas Mavericks and even the Golden State Warriors.
Whiteside is truly an astonishing story, of a player breaking out at the age of 25, after already being out of the league. He averaged 14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and an NBA-best 3.7 blocks per game last season, putting up similar per minute numbers to 2014-2015, not letting the spike in minutes (from 23.8 to 29.1) hurt his efficiency. In the paint he’s almost a guaranteed two points, making 61.4% of his field goal attempts. He’s somewhere between serviceable and a liability from the line, making 60.2% of his shots over the last two seasons.
After making $981,000 last season, Whiteside is looking for the max. While centers, as we keep mentioning, aren’t what they used to be, big men who can put up points and protect the rim are still something most NBA teams cherish and are willing to pay for. Whiteside will probably get the max, which in his case, if he signs with the Miami Heat, will be $98 million over four seasons. It’ll be slightly less, also with four years as the limit, if he signs with someone else.
The Heat, like the Warriors, are going to meet with Kevin Durant, and only then make up their minds. With Chris Bosh being such a difficult player to predict considering his healthy situation, and who knows, maybe retired pretty soon, losing Whiteside too could be a big blow to their plans of contending for an NBA title. The Warriors have a center who is fantastic defensively, but if they miss out on Durant, they might think about going a bit younger and fresher, trading Bogut or someone else to make room for Whiteside. In order to sign Durant, the Warriors will need a trade as well. They don’t have the cap space to sign someone for the max.
The Los Angeles Lakers would have loved to begin their post Kobe Bryant era with Durant, but he isn’t considering them an option. The team is heavy in the backcourt and the perimeter (unless they pull off some trades). They need defense, and they need presence in the paint. The Lakers can sign about three players to the max and it’ll still be under the cap, so obviously, they’re a serious contender for Whiteside, who seems to be relishing the chance to make max money, and maybe go to a team where it’ll be easier for him to stand out.
The Dallas Mavericks always miss out on the first list of names they want to sign. Is Whiteside their 2016 version of DeAndre Jordan? After all, both players offer the same kind of qualities, more or less. The Mavericks have plenty of cap space by the opting out of Dirk Nowitzki, Deron Williams and Chandler Parsons. There are plenty of reasons to join the Mavs – Nowitzki will surely return, Rick Carlisle is great to play for, and Parsons is probably coming back. But for some reason, the Mavs always feel like a lesser option to many players considering others too.
The Blazers are also drowning in cap space, and offer Whiteside to join a team on the rise. Portland did a great job of retooling after the mass exodus in last year’s offseason, losing four starters. This team is built around Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, and Whiteside is easily better than any other big man they have. The Blazers would love an improvement in rim protection, and Whiteside will have plenty of chances to show his ability on the boards with Lillard and McCollum jacking up shots.