The Plan In The Middle: Why Keeping Whiteside Is More Important Now Than Ever

Commentary6 years ago6 min readGreg Sylvander

Allow me to be the first to hold myself accountable for the tweet you see above. Not because I know what is going to happen in the future, or because I have heard anything different since I tweeted what I did back on January 9th.

But hold me accountable for foolishly speaking in absolutes when one of the primary sayings in all of sports is “anything can happen.” Because that phrase rings true in life as well.

My tweet still stands in one respect. I was told earlier this season, by somebody who is close to a person I (and you) would trust on the matter, that the organization was leaning toward not paying Hassan Whiteside what the market was sure to dictate come July of 2016.

Leaning so much so in fact, that it was likely they would turn their attention to other players at 12:01 a.m. on July 1st and it would surely result in Whiteside being wooed away from Miami. Wooed with promises of max contracts and counting stats galore, making his decision an easy one, one that would be made well before the Heat could even have the opportunity to circle back to him.

It just didn’t make sense at the time to prepare to dish out max money for a player that didn’t appear a great fit next to franchise cornerstone Chris Bosh and also had maturity issues, albeit mostly harmless ones. There simply was, and are, too many holes elsewhere to have two big men earning over $40 million between them if they couldn’t play alongside one another in a successful way.

Much has changed since then.

The future of Chris Bosh as a basketball player has never had less clarity.

This reality leads to the reassessment of whether Whiteside is worth the contract it will take to keep him in Miami.

Yes, questions do remain.

• Can you give a max contract to a player who comes off the bench when/if Chris Bosh is healthy?

• Can you pay Whiteside despite having yet to figure out how to successfully incorporate his game next to the team’s highest paid player, Bosh?

• Can the organization rely on Whiteside when it matters most?

• Can we realistically expect to compete for a championship with the majority of cap space allocated to the quartet of Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic and Whiteside?

All are valid questions.

If we assume the best case scenario plays out regarding Bosh’s health as it relates to playing basketball, Bosh will be back on the court at some point. He came back better than ever the first time he faced this, so there is little reason to question whether he can regain form.

Yet even if that best case scenario plays out perfectly, the threat of blood clots returning for Bosh appears to be something that will exist for the rest of his playing career and life.

That uncertainty surrounding Bosh makes the presence of Whiteside more important than ever. Important because he may now literally be the largest insurance policy ever.

If heaven forbid Bosh were to not be able to come back and play, or come back and have another clot issue that derailed his season, having Whiteside may be the difference between a playoff push or a lottery season, a complete rebuild or an opportunity to pick up the pieces and retool.

Whiteside is a player with a truly unique set of skills, an elite rim protector and rebounder. For as much as we nitpick about his ability to set screens or pass out of the post, the things he does well, he may do better than anybody.

His performance against Golden State Warriors last night proved he could even flourish against small ball. Whiteside has game changing qualities.

So yes, you pay what it costs to keep Whiteside even if all of the pieces don’t quite fit. You pay what it costs because now you are faced with the realization that the playing future of Bosh is, and always will be, at risk.

You pay because as much as we admire and talk about “Heat culture,”  this is the situation where you have to rely on that culture more than ever. Betting on Hassan Whiteside has to be as much about the organization betting on itself at this point. Whiteside has the talent to be the most impressive example of what Heat culture can do for a player.

As for the question of if Wade, Bosh, Dragic and Whiteside is good enough to win a championship? Who knows, maybe not, although anything can happen, but ask yourself this:

Is the potential for that foursome to become reduced to a duo of Wade and Dragic any closer to being good enough?

You already have one big man with a unique set of skills likely lost for this season and maybe beyond, you can’t let another one walk out the door.

Hassan Whiteside of the Miami Heat blocks the shot on Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Feb. 24 in Miami, FL