Whiteside Rising To The Challenge For Heat, Becoming Reliable Starter

Commentary7 years ago6 min readMiami Heat Beat Staff

It’s truly amazing how things have quickly changed for Miami since July of 2014. How 16 months have altered the course of a franchise by one single, monumental change.

It was evident there was an elephant in the back of the room masking the entire 2014-15 season. So noticeable, until a sequence of misfortunate events overshadowed that missing glaring piece by a rampant amount of injuries.

Despite such a long, scathing list — including a blood clot scare to Chris Bosh and a torn MCL suffered by Josh McRoberts — the Heat still found a way to compete through a bleak ending and left with three major positives:

‌• Miami traded for aggressive point guard Goran Dragic out of Phoenix during last year’s trade deadline, hours prior to Bosh’s blood clot diagnosis.

‌• They went into the 2015 NBA Draft with the 10th overall pick and drafted a talented wing in Justise Winslow, who many NBA writers/analysts considered to be the steal of the draft.

‌• The Heat discovered a talented 7-footer in Hassan Whiteside, who went on to take the league by storm, seamlessly out of nowhere.

Prior to his breakthrough with Miami, Whiteside (drafted 33rd overall by the Sacramento Kings in 2010) struggled to find a job in the NBA. He went from playing overseas in China and Lebanon to calling the AmericanAirlines Arena his new home.

But as much as Dragic and Winslow may prove to play important roles in their first full season in Miami, Whiteside’s continued impact will dictate how far this team goes, and here’s why.


 

So, it wasn’t until early January when Whiteside emerged as Miami’s future star center. His two most memorable games, a 23 point, 16 rebounds, 2 block performance on the road versus the Clippers on January 11th and a 14 point, 13 rebounds, 12 block performance two weeks later against the Bulls in Chicago, stamped his mark as an intriguing entity around the league.

Whiteside ended his remarkable season (48 games) averaging 11.8 points, 10 rebounds and 2.6 blocks, while shooting 62.8 percent from the field via basketball-reference.comHis total rebounding percentage — the percent of available rebounds grabbed by any given player — was an impressive 25.4 percent, a high grade to go along with his blocking percentage of 9.2 percent.

Those stat lines quickly narrated his effectiveness in the paint as an unprecedented talent that the Heat have been trying to find for years. The search lasted from the likes of Erick Dampier, Dexter Pittman and Joel Anthony to Rodney Turiaf, Eddie Curry and Greg Oden ever since The Big 3 formed.

While timing and a questionable personality did play a major factor in his acquisition, Whiteside escaped the radars of other GM’s, which allowed Miami to land their coveted big man.

Through 54 games, a few scuffles that resulted in two ejections, a suspension and in $14,000 in fines have been his only negatives after many suggested he was a headcase that could never be coached.

However, since being introduced to the Miami Heat culture, Whiteside has been rising to the challenge to become more conscious about his on-court behavior and how important it is to have a collected mind. It seems to be working.


Coming into the season, many questions were raised about the makeup of this Heat roster. Some included: How Bosh will respond after coming back from a career-threatening ailment, how effective can Dwyane Wade still be heading into his 13th NBA season, and if Whiteside’s demeanor would continue to improve, especially during a contract year?

Through six games in the season, Miami (3-3) is fifth in field goal percentage (46.7-percent) and ninth in free throw percentage (81-percent).

Whiteside’s performance hasn’t faltered either. Through his first six games, he’s averaging 15.0 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 3.6 blocks, while shooting 72.3 percent (34 of 47) from the field.

Whiteside’s performance hasn’t faltered either. Through his first six games, he’s averaging 15.0 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 3.6 blocks, while shooting 72.3 percent (34 of 47) from the field.

In fact, his field goal percentage of 76.3 percent (29 of 38) was the best four-game start of any NBA player since 1986 via Michael Wallace of ESPN.

He continues to put up dominating performances, including a two-game stretch where he combined for 48 points, 29 rebounds, and 6 blocks. He totaled 25 points, 15 rebounds and 2 blocks against the Houston Rockets and 23 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks against the Atlanta Hawks.

But aside of Whiteside’s personal numbers, he’s spelled a difference on the floor for Miami to be more efficient offensively.

whiteside stats graphic

When he’s on the court, the Heat’s offensive efficiency is 116, shooting 53 percent from the field and 43 percent from beyond three. But when he’s off the court, Miami’s offensive efficiency drops to 83 and their shooting percentages plummet from 36 percent from the field and 25 percent from beyond three, according to ESPN Next Level.

So Heat fans, can you promise to not kill him when he has a bad game every now and then? Because he is the deciding factor to our success this season and hopefully for many more seasons down the road.

It’s evident Miami’s a better team with Whiteside on the floor, and he has shown again with his opportunities that he can be a tenacious rebounder, a defensive presence around the rim and he can finish with a mix of moves at the rim.

And his play will only improve as he grows his pick and roll game between Dragic and Wade, which made strides last Sunday against the Rockets as 7 of Wade’s 8 assists were to the 7-footer.

So Heat fans, can you promise to not kill him when he has a bad game every now and then? Because he is the deciding factor to our success this season and hopefully for many more seasons down the road.