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Hassan Whiteside's field goal % has declined 3 years in a row. Can he fix it?

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Whiteside's FG% has dropped each year from 62.8% to 60.6% to 55.7% last season. Are NBA defenses catching on?

NBA: Miami Heat at Washington Wizards Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

What's happening with Hassan Whiteside's game on offense? The season after signing a max contract with the Miami Heat, his field goal percentage (FG%) dropped below 60% for the first time as a member of the Heat. Numbers show teams smarted up and deny him easy baskets at the rim. When forced to shoot outside of 3 feet, his FG% drops from 74.1% to 42.3%. That’s over a 30% difference in made baskets.

3 Seasons of Whiteside

STATS 2014 2015 2016
STATS 2014 2015 2016
GAMES 48 73 77
STARTED 32 48 77
FG% 62.8% 60.6% 55.7%
DUNKS FGA% 23.5% 22.4% 17.9%
0-3 FGA% 52.2% 50.3% 44.5%
3-10 FGA% 35.4% 31.7% 37.4%
0-3 FG% 76.2% 77.3% 74.1%
3-10 FG% 48.2% 43.5% 42.3%
OBPM -1.6 -0.9 -2.0
DBPM 0.7 3.4 1.5
BPM -0.9 2.5 -0.5

Once he became a starter, Whiteside's dunk attempts went from 22% to 18%, inside 3 feet attempts dropped from 50% to 45%, and outside of 3 feet, the attempts rose from 32% to 37%. Quite a change, for the worse, in shot selection. Meanwhile his accuracy on both inside and outside of 3 feet dropped year-over-year. Teams will triple-team him in the paint, and let him take his jump shots all game long.

What is BPM?

Box Plus/Minus (BPM) is a box score-based metric for evaluating basketball players' quality and contribution to the team.

BPM relies on a player's box score information and the team's overall performance to estimate a player's performance relative to league average.

There are limitations on all box score stats – if the box score doesn't measure a particular contribution, a box-score-based metric can only approximate that contribution....Such critical components of defense as positioning, communication, and the other factors that make Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan elite on defense can't be captured, unfortunately.

BPM is a rough guide on how a player helps his team. Though it’s not perfect, the list of BPM leaders from last season shows it has some merit. The numbers are relative to an average player, e.g. Harden helped the Houston Rockets 10 points per 100 possessions more than an average player.

  • Russell Westbrook 15.6
  • James Harden 10.1
  • Chris Paul 8.8
  • LeBron James 8.4
  • Nikola Jokic 8.4
  • Kevin Durant 8.0
  • Kawhi Leonard 7.9

Last season Whiteside was a double-double machine, but the team finished at 41-41 with him starting 77 games, so those double-doubles didn't bring Miami into the playoffs. What's surprising is his Offense BPM numbers: they were negative all of his first 3 seasons in Miami. While his individual stats shine, the negative OBPM numbers for 3 years imply he's a liability on offense for the team as an ensemble.

Basketball Reference discusses what the BPM really means.

BPM is a per-100-possession stat, the same scale as Adjusted Plus/Minus: 0.0 is league average, +5 means the player is 5 points better than an average player over 100 possessions (which is about All-NBA level), -2 is replacement level, and -5 is really bad.

In Whiteside's first year as a full-time starter, his BPM was -0.5, which isn’t an All-Star level number. The Heat’s leaders in BPM last season were James Johnson 2.8, Goran Dragic 2.7, Tyler Johnson 1.5 (The Brothers Johnson again). To show BPM isn’t perfect, Lucas Nogueira had a BPM of 5.4, based solely on his DBPM of 5.6.

Bottom line, NBA defenses have figured out how to limit Whiteside’s offense at the rim and let him grab all the rebounds he wants. In Sacramento with the Kings, he played one season with 7% of his time at power forward, and had a +/- on-off minutes number of +9.6. Can pairing with Kelly Olynyk elevate Whiteside's game?