For the past year, many have questioned whether the Heat should offer a max contract to center Hassan Whiteside.
In the end, Miami decided he’s worth the money.
Whiteside announced on social media Friday morning that he agreed to re-sign with the Heat. It is a max four-year, $98 million contract, according to the Associated Press.
Here’s why the Heat made the right decision …
1. Good value: It’s hard to get good value with a max contract, but certain circumstances permit it. The combination of this summer’s expensive free agent market and Whiteside’s Tier 1 free agent status makes this a smart signing for Miami. By comparison, free agent center Timofey Mozgov agreed to a four-year deal worth $64 million with the Lakers (average of $16 million per season), and free agent center Joakim Noah and the Knicks are close to a agreeing on a four-year deal worth $72 million (average of $18 million per season). Meanwhile, Whiteside’s max contract averages out to $24.5 million per season. When compared to Mozgov and Noah’s deals, Whiteside’s max contract doesn’t seem so bad. In addition, Whiteside’s Tier 1 free agent status makes his max number the lowest possible.
Tier 1 free agents (0-6 years of NBA experience) are eligible for max with a projected starting annual salary of $22 million next season
Tier 2 free agents (7-9 years of NBA experience) are eligible for max with a projected starting annual salary of $26.4 million next season
Tier 3 free agents (10 or more years of NBA experience) are eligible for max with a projected starting annual salary of $30.8 million next season
Whiteside’s max contract will look even better next summer, too, when the cap is expected to jump to around $110 million and max numbers are expected to rise again as a result. Whiteside’s max number would have been around $27 million next offseason.
2. Still on the rise: The upside of signing a player who has played just one full NBA season to a max contract is that he’s likely still improving. The 27-year-old Whiteside has played 3,378 minutes over 140 regular-season games during his short NBA career. By comparison, 27-year-old Russell Westbrook has played 19,983 minutes over 587 regular-season games over his NBA career. We know what Westbrook is. We still don’t have a complete picture for what Whiteside could be yet. The 7-footer is an unfinished product who looks like he’s still improving. Just look at last season. Whiteside averaged 12.2 points, 11 rebounds and made 55.2 percent of his free throws before the All-Star break. He upped those numbers to average 17.5 points, 13.3 rebounds and make 75 percent of his free throws after the break. That’s a player still on the rise.
3. Retain a valuable asset: After taking a chance on an unproven Whiteside in the middle of the 2014-15 season, the Heat helped develop him into the max player he is today. If Miami would have let him get away this summer, it would have lost Whiteside and received nothing in return. By signing the center, the Heat keep a very valuable asset on their roster. If Whiteside stays with Miami for his full four-year contract, great for him and the team. But if the Heat decide to take a different route at some point over the four-year stretch, Whiteside’s contract will be very tradeable when the salary cap spikes next offseason, assuming he keeps playing at this level and doesn’t get injured. Instead of losing Whiteside for nothing this summer, Miami just retained a very good player and asset.