MIAMI – Hassan Whiteside led the league in blocks and was third in rebounding last season.
This year, those categories will be reversed with Whiteside becoming the first player in Heat history to lead the league in rebounding and possibly finishing third in blocks.
The 7-foot Whiteside, who signed a $98 million max contract last summer, enters tonight’s regular-season finale averaging 14.1 rebounds. Even if he was held without a rebound tonight against Washington, Detroit’s Andre Drummond would need 25 to catch him.
Considering Whiteside has not had fewer than nine boards in the last 34 games and 65 times has grabbed double-figures in rebounds, the Heat have a better chance of making the playoff by the Bulls or Pacers losing than Whiteside being overtaken for the rebounding title.
“Leading the league in anything is tough,” Whiteside said. “Last year it was blocks. This year, it’s rebounding. Just having two big things that you want your center to do is pretty special.”
Whiteside averaged 11.8 rebounds and 3.7 blocks in 2015-16. He is averaging 2.11 blocks this season behind Utah’s Rudy Gobert (2.66) and New Orleans’ Anthony Davis (2.23). But Indiana’s Miles Turner, fourth with 2.11 a game, could pass Whiteside with a big night.
Whiteside became the first Heat player to surpass 1,000 rebounds this season. He has 1,070 entering tonight.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said winning the rebound title is a sign of Whiteside’s overall growth.
“I think some of his biggest strides have been the winning plays in some of the games where he only had nine rebounds and he loved it,” Spoelstra said. “He loved winning, he loved those moments of impacting winning of enjoying someone else’s success. I think that’s the biggest part of his growth.”