Hassan Whiteside, the facilitator? He may have to accept that role to adjust to new Heat offense

MIAMI — The Heat’s offense changed during center Hassan Whiteside’s 13-game injury absence.

With centers Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo playing more minutes with Whiteside out, the Heat started running more of their offense through their big men. The result has been higher assist totals, as Olynyk and Adebayo are each averaging 2.8 assists over the past five games.

The result has also been more wins. Miami is 7-3 over its past 10 games and has posted the league’s 10th best offensive rating during this stretch.

“I think we’re getting more organized and the ball is popping a lot more,”guard Josh Richardson said. “I think we’re getting the bigs more involved in flash action and stuff like that and being able to run and then screen and us play off that from the perimeter, as opposed to more straight post-up stuff that we were doing earlier.”

Goran Dragic #7 and Hassan Whiteside #21 of the Miami Heat walk up the floor against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena on November 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Can Whiteside become the Heat’s third big man facilitator now that he’s back from injury, with Friday’s home game against the Nets up next? That’s still to be determined, but he’s open to the idea.

“I love it, I love it,” said Whiteside, who recorded seven points, eight rebounds and zero assists in his return from injury Tuesday against the Magic. “I love it all. You really feel involved. I love the way that they’re flashing the bigs and letting them distribute the ball more.”

While Whiteside has excelled in many statistical categories during his time with the Heat, assists has not been one of them. He’s averaging 0.5 assists during his Heat career, and he has yet to record more than one assist in a game this season.

To put those numbers into perspective, Adebayo has finished with four or more assists in three consecutive games and Olynyk has finished with four or more assists in eight games this season. Whiteside’s career-high is three assists.

“It will definitely be an adjustment because I don’t know if he’s ever played like that before,” Richardson said of Whiteside playing as a facilitator. “I think he’s a good player and he’s a smart player so he can figure it out. He already wants to be on the perimeter so we’ll see how it works. I think it will be good.”

Whiteside believes his assist numbers will improve now that he could be asked to take on that role.

“You’re going to get assists when you handle the ball more. It’s just part of the game,” Whiteside said. “He’s putting it into the big’s hands more. … It’s not as much pick-and-roll as much as it was. It’s more hand-offs, bigs flashing to the elbows, that sort of stuff.”

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