Mailbag: Should Miami Heat start to think about trading Hassan Whiteside?

Heat Hassan Whiteside (center) has missed 11 games this season because of knee bruises. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The Miami Heat return home to face Portland on Wednesday off two solid defensive efforts without center Hassan Whiteside in the lineup.

Whiteside’s absence has allowed Bam Adebayo to become a part of the rotation and the rookie continues to progress, which leads us to another mailbag.

If you weren’t able to ask a question this time, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter to @tomdangelo44 and @Anthony_Chiang. You can also e-mail me at tdangelo@pbpostcom.

From @ChrisHypeTrain: If Bam keeps playing like he has recently should the Heat think about trading Hassan Whiteside?

The Heat love Adebayo’s work ethic and willingness to learn, and the 20-year-old seems to show us something new and improved every game. In the last seven games, six with Whiteside sidelined because of a second bone bruise in his left knee, Adebayo is averaging 8.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in about 21 minutes per game. He is shooting 69.7 percent (23-of-33) during that stretch.

But Adebayo’s stats do not tell the entire story. The Heat knew the 6-foot-10, athletic big man, who was drafted 14th overall this year, was more advanced defensively, but he has provided highlight reel moments, not only with his ability to catch and flush the lob pass, but while playing defense, too.

But is he ready for prime-time, 30-plus minutes a game? No question Whiteside, 28, can be a frustrating player with immaturity on and off the court. But he is a unique player who has led the league in blocked shots (2015-16) and rebounding (last year) and averaged 17.0 points last season.  Whiteside is averaging 14.9 points this season while playing with a sore knee.

Whiteside is in the second year of a four-year, $98 million deal and he certainly is not untouchable. But will the Heat actively shop their defensive anchor? That question should be easier to answer as we get closer to the Feb. 8 trade deadline and beyond.

As long as the Heat stay in the hunt, Pat Riley will not weaken the team. Making the playoffs is important to Riley and the players. But Riley never stops exploring ways to get better and if Adebayo continues to improve and the Heat believe he and Kelly Olynyk can anchor the middle, than, yes, Whiteside becomes a bit more expendable. But a lot has to happen if the Heat decided to deal Whiteside. First, a team must be willing to take on the remainder of his contract and secondly, that team must have a star that Riley would require if his is trading one of his building blocks.

From Robert, Port St. Lucie: Has Spo found something with this starting lineup? They just look more comfortable than some of the other starting lineups he’s used. What does he do when Whiteside returns?

Robert sent in the question before Monday’s impressive win against struggling Memphis, so he must feel even stronger about the lineup today. Coach Erik Spoelstra turned to this lineup of Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Josh Richardson, James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk in San Antonio and the Heat are 2-1 since. Spoelstra evaded a question Monday about whether he believes players are more comfortable since the switch, steering it to everyone committing to playing better defensively.

But is this the ultimate starting lineup Spoelstra will rely upon? Kind of but not really. Dragic, Waiters and Richardson have been staples of the first five and I believe the switch that will stick is moving James Johnson back into the first five. Johnson needs to remain as the starting power forward. Which means when Whiteside returns, the big man likely steps back into his role at center and Olynyk returns to the bench.

[Five takeaways: Heat turn up the defense in the second half, crush Grizzlies to get back to .500]

[Erik Spoelstra says game against Memphis has no more significance since David Fizdale was fired. Don’t believe him]

[Slovenia puts stamp of approval on Goran Dragic-led EuroBasket championship]

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