Heat mailbag: Has Hassan Whiteside turned the corner during this winning stretch?

Hassan Whiteside #21 of the Miami Heat looks on during a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at American Airlines Arena on March 4, 2017 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The Heat are winning a lot of games and Hassan Whiteside is earning a lot of compliments from his teammates and coaches.

Has Hassan turned the corner in his journey toward becoming a consistent player who makes winning plays?

We answered that question and more in this week’s installment of the Heat mailbag. If you weren’t able to ask a question this week, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44).

@Aj3th: Has Hassan Whiteside turned the corner?

Anthony Chiang: It sure seems like it.

The stats say Hassan has turned the corner. He’s averaging 15.4 points and 14.2 rebounds over the Heat’s past 27 games. Both of those numbers are just a hair below his season averages, but the Heat have been winning during this stretch with a 22-5 record in those games. Hassan has been making an impact in other areas that don’t show up in the box score. During this 27-game span, players defended by Hassan are shooting 47.7 percent from within six feet of the basket — 14.3 percent worse than their normal field goal percentage from within that range. Those are all encouraging signs when it comes to Hassan’s growth.

But maybe the most encouraging sign of growth is what’s coming out of Hassan’s mouth recently. Instead of talking about his own dominant performances in his postgame interviews, he’s been praising his teammates. After Wednesday’s win over New Orleans, he spent most of his postgame interview complimenting Goran Dragic and James Johnson. And when asked about his own progress after Thursday’s practice, he turned his answer into another big compliment for his teammates. “It’s not just me, man,” Hassan said.

It isn’t just Hassan. And the fact that he’s starting to realize that is a very good sign for the Heat.

@anilsbtb: Which one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference looks the most vulnerable for the Heat to upset in the first round of the playoffs?

Anthony Chiang: My choices are the Cavaliers, Celtics, Wizards and Raptors. Cleveland still has LeBron James on its roster, so there’s no way I can pick the Cavaliers. The Celtics aren’t unstoppable, but they have been a consistent machine this season with the help of Isaiah Thomas’ All-Star year. The Heat have had success against the Wizards this season, defeating Washington in each of their first two matchups this season. But the Wizards are one of the hottest teams in the NBA, as they’ve won 32 of their past 44 games after starting the season 9-14.

The Raptors, however, look vulnerable. Toronto is still playing without star point guard Kyle Lowry, who is recovering from wrist surgery. Kyle hopes to return for the playoffs, but there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Raptors right now. Toronto has lost eight of its past 15 games. Out of these four teams, Toronto is the team you want to face at the moment.

[Dwyane Wade used to get the MVP chants in Miami, now Goran Dragic is hearing them]

[Erik Spoelstra on Dwyane Wade’s regular season-ending injury: ‘I hope I’m hearing the news wrong’]

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