Does Heat center Hassan Whiteside deserve to make an All-NBA team?

MIAMI — The Heat have had All-NBA centers on their roster before.

Alonzo Mourning was named the first-team All-NBA center for his play during the 1998-99 season and earned a spot on the All-NBA second team in the 1999-00 season. Shaquille O’Neal was named the first-team All-NBA center two times during his time with the Heat — in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons.

Current Heat center Hassan Whiteside has a chance to join that list this season.

Miami Heat?s Hassan Whiteside (21) works the ball against Denver Nuggets Mason Plumlee (24) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, April 2, 2017, in Miami. The Nuggets defeated the Heat 116-113. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)

Entering Monday’s game against the Cavaliers, Whiteside is ranked fifth among full-time centers in points per game (16.8) this season behind Minnesota’s Karl Anthony-Towns, Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez, Philadelpia’s Joel Embiid and Memphis’ Marc Gasol. Whiteside is also averaging a league-leading 14.0 rebounds and ranks second among full-time centers in blocks per game (2.1) behind just Utah’s Rudy Gobert.

“I would say this has been by far his best year,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Monday when asked if he believes Whiteside belongs in the All-NBA discussion. “That goes kind of like even without a discussion. What he’s done in the second half of the season, even after the New Year, really impacting winning, hey I’d put him up there against any center these last 50 games. I’d put him up there in any discussion in Defensive Player of the Year these last 50 games. He would be my vote because he’s impacted it in a huge way at the rim, in the paint. His pick-and-roll defense now has improved so much. He’s much more nuanced with his approach with that. He’s allowed us to build a great defense.”

[Cavaliers list LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson out; Kevin Love questionable]

[Erik Spoelstra: If Dion Waiters, Luke Babbitt, Josh McRoberts play vs. Cavaliers, it will be on ‘a plug basis’]

If Whiteside is named to one of the All-NBA teams, which are announced on June 26, he would become the sixth Heat player to earn the honor joining Tim Hardaway, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Mourning and O’Neal.

Whiteside’s biggest competition in the All-NBA voting seems to be Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan, Pelicans All-Stars DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, Towns, Gasol and Gobert. That leaves seven centers for three All-NBA center spots, although Davis or Cousins could also earn the honor as a forward.

As for win shares, Whiteside ranks sixth among players (9.1) who have played heavy minutes at center this season behind Gobert (14.1), Towns (12.2), Jordan (11.3), Davis (11.0) and Denver’s Nikola Jokic (9.2). Win shares is a player statistic that attempts to divide up credit for team success to the individuals on the team.

But Goran Dragic believes Whiteside has been the NBA’s best center over the past 50 games. During the Heat’s current 28-11 stretch, the 27-year-old Whiteside is averaging 16.2 points, 13.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game while holding players 10.4 percent under their normal shooting percentage within six feet of the basket.

“Whitey is impacting the game in all aspects, defensively and offensively,” Dragic said. “I think he should win Defensive Player of the Year and the first All-NBA team. Why not? He’s putting those numbers up every night and he’s come a long way. He’s a great player.”

While Whiteside wouldn’t say whether he believes he deserves a spot on one of the All-NBA teams, he acknowledged that he’s in the middle of the best stretch of his NBA career.

“It’s been an amazing stretch for me,” Whiteside said. “It’s been a different year for me with shot blocking and just different things and learning different positions on the court. I definitely think it’s been a really great stretch for me in a Heat uniform.”

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