#NBAVote: Hassan Whiteside and the Case For His First All-Star Team
In the midst of a war between #TankSZN, those urging for a hardcore playoff push, the trade machine frenzy, and almost any other way HEAT fans have tried to cope with this season, it is evident that there haven’t been many bright spots to be excited about on the court so far.
Wayne Ellington made his way back into the rotation in an explosive way, but the HEAT still find themselves down almost a third of their roster. When the Knicks travel to town on Tuesday, the HEAT will be without (King) James Johnson, Dion Waiters, and Justise Winslow, let alone J-Rich and Babbitt being questionable with injuries of their own. This team has not been at 100 percent throughout the entire season.
100 percent…? Insert the 100 emoji.
The (almost) 100 million dollar man, Hassan Whiteside, has been given the spotlight this year and he has taken a full advantage of it. Whiteside was left off the All-Star roster last year, but this should be his year to make his claim as one the NBA elites. So let’s break down the numbers and make the case for Whiteside to be representing Miami as an All-Star in New Orleans on February.
The Offensive numbers:
Whiteside is finding ways to produce on offense, his usage percentage is at 23.5 percent which puts him behind Dragic and Waiters for the team leaders. His true shooting percentage currently sits at .573, top tier of the league. What this means is Whiteside is still being efficient on the floor even though the offense isn’t being revolved around him so much. His PER of 24.3 still puts him among the league leaders, and it is the top mark in the Eastern Conference amongst starting centers.
However, despite a lower usage percentage, he still leads the HEAT in points per game with 17.8, while averaging just 13 shots a game. His scoring has been more diverse this season with jumpers and post moves, but his main strength will always be in the paint, a category where the HEAT rank sixth in the league in. His 14.9 rebounds per game sits atop the NBA leaders, and his 4.4 offensive boards per game are tied for first in the league. Not just this, but he is now beginning to kick the ball out after getting rebounds and creating more chances for his team, as the HEAT have gone to be seventh in the league in second-chance points.
Shall we begin to dig beyond the box score numbers? Whiteside is averaging 1.36 points per possession as the roll man in a pick and roll play, which ranks third in the NBA. The HEAT have played 588 minutes with Whiteside on the court, leading to an offensive rating of 102.6. When Hassan is off the court, that number drops to an offensive rating of 93.3.
The Defensive numbers:
They ain’t doing it with blocks, but Whiteside hasn’t done it with blocks yet this season as well. Whiteside is averaging 2.6 blocks per game after averaging nearly 4 a game last year. However, not many teams are up to challenge the big man on defense. The HEAT are allowing the fourth fewest field goal attempts at the rim (31.9 per game). When teams do try to take it to the rim, the HEAT are limiting them to 47 percent shooting, the lowest in the league at the rim per Sports VU.
Opponents are shooting 41.3% on Hassan at the rim this yr (second-best mark in the league with >6 DFGA per game). 46.9% last yr. (@nbastats)
— Nicholas Sciria (@Nick_Sciria) December 1, 2016
The HEAT also are currently eleventh in their total defensive rating, but as recently as last week they were number four, trailing only the Clippers, Jazz, and Hawks. Opponents average just 41.5 points in the paint against Miami, the 12th lowest mark in the league.
The not-so-pretty numbers
Occasionally, there are still those plays that make fans cringe. Whiteside is yet to master how to set screens, and it just looks like a lazy effort at times. Whiteside plays in the post a lot, third most in the league to be accurate, and is only averaging 0.70 points per possession in the post, which ranks him in the 23rd percentile of the league. His 40 percent shooting from the post is not a sign of good things to come if he doesn’t turn it around. Whiteside also seems to have gotten out of his newfound groove at the free throw line, shooting 10 percent worse than he did last season.
On defense, he has been in foul trouble in the early going of the season, averaging nearly one more foul per game than he did last season. There are games that opposing big men start to get in his head a bit and frustrate Whiteside, leading to more issues. Curiously when Hassan is on the floor, the HEAT have a defensive rating of 102.0 and when he is off the floor, the team’s defensive rating gets to 97.2. A number of factors could play into that number, the small sample size of those minutes without him on the floor (fewer than 300) and how typically when Hassan isn’t in the game bench players take the floor. Bench players typically don’t have the same offensive potency as the starters, explaining the improved defense when he is off the floor. Also, when Whiteside is off the floor, the HEAT force 5 more turnovers per 100 possessions as well which might explain the better defense when he is off.
When it is all set, “The Beast from the Southeast” (Can we patent this?), Hassan Whiteside is one of the best big men in the NBA. He has been producing absurd numbers, playing improved basketball, and making a statement almost every game. He has had his off nights, but that is no reason to deny him from being an All-Star this season.