The FanRag Sports Offseason Rankings counts down the top 100 NBA players throughout the offseason. Methodology, voters and the full countdown are all detailed in the introductory post.
Hassan Whiteside signed a massive contract with the Miami Heat last summer, and many questioned the wisdom of it. Could Whiteside be the best player on a playoff team? Could he overcome his lack of maturity? Could he anchor an elite defense?
He answered the bell to the tune of 17.0 points, 14.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. He shot 55.7 percent from the field. He established that he can be a key player on a playoff team — the Heat had the NBA’s second-best record down the stretch, with Whiteside playing a key part.
Whiteside has tremendous pros and tremendous cons. His box score numbers are arguably greater than his impact. The Heat were only .7 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court, per NBA.com, indicating that his contributions aren’t quite what they appear. If the Heat experience less team success than last year’s second half, Whiteside will be the big target of criticism — he’s the big earner on the team.
The Heat could be good — very good. If they are very good, the other side of that coin is that Whiteside should get a heap of praise, and likely an All-Star appearance. If he is posting something close to 20 points, 15 boards and two blocks per game on a playoff team, he could be on the All-NBA team as well. That would certainly give him credence as a top-25 player.
Most of Whiteside’s game is at the rim, which isn’t surprising considering his 9-5 standing reach means he’s practically able to touch the rim without even jumping. For comparison’s sake, that’s just two inches shy of Rody Gobert. Add his 31-inch vertical (and Gobert’s 29), and the two could have a high-five with their fingertips 12 feet off the ground. Impressive.
Because of that, along with some impressive athleticism for a big man, he can corral a lot of passes and throw them down. He finished 60 alley-oops and flushed another 163 dunks last year. Frankly, there’s not a lot opponents can do to stop this:
Whiteside has more of a mid-range game than DeAndre Jordan or Andre Drummond, but he’s not confusing anyone with a stretch-five. He’s a dominant rim player with 93 career assists. That’s career. So his passing is… limited. His 6.1 block-to-assist ratio is fourth all-time among players with 100 blocks (but that pales in comparison to Manute Bol’s 12.2).
Whiteside also has good and bad on the defensive end. As a rim protector, he’s splendid, as evidenced by the fact that opponents shoot 10.6 points below their season averages when he’s the closest defender on the play.
However, he’s still not elite in covering the ballhandler as the big in the pick-and-roll. He was in the 44th percentile at .879 points per possession. While that’s a tricky stat, a lot of the blame does fall on Whiteside. He tends to be passive unless the dribbler is in the paint. He doesn’t close out very hard. He seems to covet the blocks and rebounds over actually defending the possession. He’ll shrug off closing out on a shot if he can’t get a block, opting instead to stay closer to the glass in case there’s a miss.
Near the rim, he’s very good. When he blocks a shot, it’s convincing.