The NBA starts a new fiscal year 12 a.m. Sunday, which also signals the start of free agency and what once again will be a busy offseason. The Miami Heat may not be as big a player as usual this offseason because of roster and payroll limitations but president Pat Riley still will be busy trying to find a way to upgrade his roster, however difficult that may be.
This week we have taken a look at the biggest offseason questions surrounding the Heat. Today we end our series with this question: Can the Heat move Hassan Whiteside or does his contract, diminishing skills and lack of maturity make him untradeable?
MIAMI – Hassan Whiteside’s free agency was as clean and quick as any two summers ago when it took less than 24 hours for him to announce on Snapchat he was re-signing with the Heat.
But since then, Whiteside’s career has been anything but smooth.
The 7-foot center has become the poster boy for the Heat’s struggles the last two years with his four-year, $98.4 million contract front and center in any discussion about the underachieving center.
Whiteside’s career as a max player got off to a good start, leading the league in rebounding (14.1 per game) and averaging 17.0 points per game in 2016-17. But signs of Whiteside’s immaturity kept surfacing and coach Erik Spoelstra’s frustration with Whiteside kept growing. Many wondered how much more the Heat could take.
Things got worse last season as Whiteside’s numbers declined and his complaints about playing time increased. That frustration from Whiteside’s end peaked in late March with a profanity-laced rant about his lack of playing time. Whiteside questioned Spoelstra’s strategy of matching up against smaller lineups, which many times left Whiteside on the bench for the entire fourth quarter.
After averaging 14.0 points and 11.4 rebounds during the regular season, Whiteside’s production bottomed out during the playoffs. Seeing just 15.4 minutes of playing time per game, Whiteside averaged 5.2 points and 6.0 rebounds in the five-game series against Philadelphia.
The rocky two seasons triggered several reports that the Heat would attempt to trade Whiteside this offseason and the belief is Miami would love to get out from the remaining two years and $52.5 million of Whiteside’s deal.
“I expect a lot of out Hassan,” Riley said. “Contrary to what people might think about us trading him, we haven’t offered him to anybody, really, to be honest with you. So, you got through an emotional period with a player and you deal with it and you come back and you work things out.”
Riley, though, is very careful about what he says when it comes to trades. Nobody will say they are attempting to trade one of their players in case that player is not moved and he has to return. No matter how strong the reports, nobody wants a player returning thinking he is not wanted.
Riley started preparing for the possibility that Whiteside will return following the season when he declared “an intervention” was needed between Whiteside and Spoelstra and he was “going to be the intervener.”
Still, Riley and general manager Andy Elisburg will continue to explore every way to improve this roster and Riley has said no player is untouchable. But is there another team willing to take on Whiteside’s contract? And are the Heat willing to perhaps deal Whiteside for another team’s high-priced disgruntled player?
Whiteside was going to get a max contract two years ago whether it was from the Heat or another team. His skill set was much more valued then as a low post center. But the game has evolved since back-to-basket centers are becoming less of a need with teams relying on spacing and 3-point shooting. Centers like Heat backup Kelly Olynyk, who can play on the perimeter, shoot the three and pass, are desired more than Whiteside.
All of which will make it difficult for the Heat to move Whiteside, no matter the return. Right now, it appears the Heat are preparing for another season with Whiteside and Riley is working on mending the relationship between his center and his coach.
The NBA starts a new fiscal year at 12 a.m. Sunday, which also signals the start of free agency and what once again will be a busy offseason. The Miami Heat may not be as big a player as usual this offseason because of roster and payroll limitations, but president Pat Riley still will be busy trying to find a way to upgrade his roster, however difficult that may be.