Miami Heat 2017 training camp preview: Hassan Whiteside is back with some new faces behind him on the depth chart

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside smiles before an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Saturday, March 4, 2017, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

With the Heat starting training camp on Tuesday, we are ramping up our coverage with our position-by-position breakdowns. Today we bring you a closer look at where Miami stands at the center position. We went through the Heat’s point guards, shooting guards, small forwards and power forwards earlier this week. Check the bottom of this post for links to the rest of our position breakdowns.

CENTERS

Projected starter
Hassan Whiteside, 7-0, 265.

Backups
Kelly Olynyk, 7-0, 245; Bam Adebayo, 6-10, 255; AJ Hammons, 7-0, 260.

Who’s new?

With last season’s backup center, Willie Reed, leaving the Heat to sign with the Clippers in free agency, Miami added some new faces at this position. Starting center Hassan Whiteside is back, as he enters the second season of the four-year, $98 million deal he signed last summer. But his backups are all new. The Heat added former Celtics big man Kelly Olynyk in free agency, signing him to a four-year, $50 million contract in July. Miami drafted 20-year-old Bam Adebayo out of Kentucky with the 14th overall pick in June. And the Heat acquired stretch-five AJ Hammons in the July trade that sent Josh McRoberts to the Dallas Mavericks. While Whiteside has already established himself as one of the top centers in the NBA, the three new faces at this position will play an important role in Miami’s success. Which backup will be the most reliable option off the bench when Whiteside needs a breather?

What to watch for

Bam Adebayo. Just watch out for him. He may be a 20-year-old rookie, but the Heat hope he will be ready to contribute right away. While there is still plenty of room for Adebayo to grow, he has already impressed Miami with his work ethic and versatile skill set this summer. Adebayo averaged 17.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in the Orlando Summer League, and 15.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 0.3 blocks in the Las Vegas Summer League. In addition to those impressive stats, he flashed glimpses of his potential to become a stretch big man in the NBA with solid shooting mechanics and athleticism that included Eurostep moves in transition. Training camp and the preseason should give the Heat a better idea of just how much Adebayo will be able to play as a rookie. But remember, it’s a long regular season. The Heat could opt to limit Adebayo’s role early on, only to use him in a bigger role later in the year. Just look at Josh Richardson. He played in each of Miami’s final 29 games of the 2015-16 regular season as a rookie after getting on the court in just 23 of the first 53 games. This entire season is going to be a learning experience for Adebayo, but the Heat still hope he can be an effective rebounder and defender right away.

Breakout potential

Kelly Olynyk. 20-year-old Bam Adebayo seems like the obvious choice, until you think about how much Olynyk is going to play this season. After the Heat invested $50 million in Olynyk this offseason, they are expecting big things from the him. The former first-round pick spent the first four seasons of his NBA career with the Celtics, averaging 9.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 278 regular-season games (36 starts). But Miami believes it can get even more than that out of the 26-year-old Olynyk, a skilled big man who has made 36.8 percent of his 3-pointers over his NBA career and has proven to be an above average passer for his 7-foot frame. Whether it’s using Olynyk next to Whiteside to throw a big lineup on the court or using Olynyk as a center in a lineup to spread the floor, the Heat have big plans for their new big man.

Key question

Will Hassan Whiteside make the NBA All-Star game this season? The 28-year-old is already known as one of the top centers in the NBA. He led the league in blocks in 2015-16 and rebounding in 2016-17. Now, Whiteside is ready for some recognition. He has yet to be voted into the All-Star game, but he’s expected to have the best chance of any player on the Heat’s roster to earn the honor this year. Whiteside was not voted in by the coaches when the reserves were announced last season, and finished 11th in the fan vote, 14th in the player vote and eighth in the media vote – the votes that determined the starters — among Eastern Conference frontcourt players. There were no true centers on the Eastern Conference’s All-Star roster last season, with Kevin Love and Paul Millsap the closest thing to centers on the team. But if the Heat are competitive and Whiteside averages another dominant stat line, he has a chance to make the game for the first time in his career.

[Miami Heat 2017 training camp preview: Centers]

[Miami Heat 2017 training camp preview: Power forwards]

[Miami Heat 2017 training camp preview: Small forwards]

[Miami Heat 2017 training camp preview: Shooting guards]

[Miami Heat 2017 training camp preview: Point guards]

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  1. […] the positive reviews, Adebayo could find it hard to get on the court early on. Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk will start the season ahead of Adebayo on the […]

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