Mailbag: Could the Miami Heat really trade center Hassan Whiteside?

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) drives against Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Friday, Oct. 21, 2016, in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) drives against Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Friday, Oct. 21, 2016, in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

MIAMI — With the Heat at the bottom of the standings, what will they do before the trade deadline on Feb. 23?

We look at one possibility that has been thrown out there recently in this week’s installment of the Heat mailbag. We also take a closer look at Okaro White’s potential impact and more.

If you weren’t able to ask a question this week, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44).

@KevinHeatNBA: What’s a realistic trade for Hassan Whiteside to Portland or Boston? The Heat should definitely move on.

Anthony Chiang: So, that happened fast. Just six months after the Heat decided to sign Hassan Whiteside to a max contract in free agency this past summer, there’s already outside chatter about trading Hassan away. That’s not a surprise considering Hassan is the highest paid player (besides Chris Bosh) on a losing team. It doesn’t help that Hassan’s effort and energy has been questionable at times this season. It’s even led Erik Spoelstra to pull Whiteside from the floor more than once this season because of his lack of energy, most notably during a December loss in Cleveland. But it’s important to remember this is Hassan’s first season in this “face of the franchise” role. I mean the guy was playing at the YMCA three years ago. And Hassan isn’t exactly having a bad season either. Entering Tuesday night’s game against the Rockets, he was averaging 17.5 points, 14.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. Those numbers would look a lot better if there was an elite player on the Heat’s roster that Hassan could play off of. This season just proves that if Hassan is your best player, your ceiling as a team isn’t very high. But if Hassan is your second or third option next to a superstar, that’s a different story.

As far as trading away Hassan, it depends on what you get back. Hassan is 27 years old and the Heat have him under his current contract for three more seasons beyond this one at an average of $24.5 million per year. That’s a valuable asset to have. Throw in the fact that the Heat should have a high pick in a loaded draft and money to spend in free agency this summer even with Hassan still on the payroll, keeping Hassan makes sense unless Miami is presented with an offer it can’t refuse. That’s basically the message that was sent when a Heat spokesman said last week that Hassan is not available on the trade market, but the team is listening to offers that come its way like most other teams around the NBA. What would it take for the Heat to trade Hassan? A lot.

@HakeemTheLean: What are the expectations for Okaro White? Injury backup, or will he actually contribute in games?

Anthony Chiang: The Heat hold the second-worst record in the NBA. So what does Miami have to lose? Play forward Okaro White and see what you have before his 10-day contract is up. There’s no reason not to play Okaro at this point. Forward Josh McRoberts and Justise Winslow are out with injuries, and Erik Spoelstra’s other options at forward are Derrick Williams, James Johnson, Luke Babbitt, and Udonis Haslem. James is the only one in that group who should definitely be in front of Okaro in the rotation. But you could make a good argument that Okaro should play ahead of Derrick, Luke and Udonis. Don’t be surprised to see Erik give Okaro consistent playing time.

Tony: I realize that Hassan Whiteside is still learning and growing, hence the inconsistency. But wouldn’t the Heat be better if Whiteside got more shots and touches?

Anthony Chiang: That’s a good question that’s not easy to answer. Do I think Hassan needs more touches and shots? Yes. As of Tuesday afternoon, Hassan ranks third on the team in shots per game (13.3) behind Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters, and Hassan ranks seventh on the team in touches per game (45.8) behind Dragic, Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, James Johnson and Dion Waiters. That just isn’t enough for Hassan, who leads the Heat with 0.382 points per touch this season. Hassan ranks 23rd in touches per game among centers who have played at least 15 games this season. Centers like Mason Plumlee, Frank Kaminsky and Joakim Noah are all getting more touches than Hassan.

But I also see how it can be hard to run offense through Hassan. He’s not known as a passer who makes opponents pay for doubling him. Hassan ranks 56th in assists per game (0.7) among centers who have played at least 15 games this season. That’s just not good enough if Hassan wants to be the centerpiece of the Heat’s offense.

[Hassan Whiteside says he’d be getting more All-Star votes if his name wasn’t next to his stats]

[Spoelstra: 2012 NBA Finals that included James, Durant, Harden, Westbrook ‘incredible to be a part of’]

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