MIAMI — Hassan Whiteside’s goal is simple when the Heat return from the All-Star break this week.
“Get more playing time, trying to be out there a little more,” Whiteside said as Miami entered the week-long break in its schedule.
That’s because Whiteside’s playing time has taken a dip this season. The 28-year-old center is averaging 25.7 minutes, which is the fewest since his first season with the Heat when he played 23.8 minutes per game in 2014-15.
Whiteside — the Heat’s highest-paid player — is ranked seventh on the team in minutes played per game, behind Josh Richardson (34.1 minutes), Goran Dragic (31.8), Dion Waiters (30.6, but out for the season after ankle surgery), Tyler Johnson (29.3), James Johnson (26.6) and Wayne Ellington (26.6).
The emergence of rookie center Bam Adebayo and the addition of center Kelly Olynyk, who missed the Heat’s past four games before the break with a strained left shoulder, has eaten into Whiteside’s minutes. Adebayo and Olynyk are averaging 20.6 minutes and 23.4 minutes this season, respectively.
Whiteside’s lack of playing time in the fourth quarter has also been an issue. He’s played in 39 games this season, but he’s spent the entire fourth quarter on the bench in 14 of those games. Olynyk (7.4 fourth-quarter minutes) and Adebayo (6.9) are averaging more playing time in the fourth quarter than Whiteside (5.7).
Last season, Whiteside played in the fourth quarter in 71 of the 77 games he appeared in, while averaging 7.3 minutes of court time in the final period.
There are a few ways the Heat can get Whiteside more playing time.
1. Give more minutes to Whiteside and less to Adebayo and Olynyk.
2. Play Whiteside and Adebayo together more. This duo has played 46 minutes together this season, with the Heat outscored 78-60 in that time.
3. Play Whiteside and Olynyk together more. This pairing has played 154 minutes together this season, with the Heat outscored 330-302 in that time.
Will Whiteside get more playing time over the final 24 games of the regular season? He hopes so, but coach Erik Spoelstra will ultimately make that decision.