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Hassan Whiteside is more valuable than just a rim protector for the Miami Heat

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Numbers show that Whiteside’s versatility in defending players all over the court can lead to a more dominant role for the Hassan.

NBA: Orlando Magic at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets, whom the Miami Heat face tonight in their last home game for 2017, are most dangerous when they launch 3-pointers from beyond the arc this season. This chart shows the Nets convert at a greater than NBA average FG% above the break, while below average in the restricted area and the corner 3’s.

Brooklyn Nets shot chart NBA stats

Who are the best and worst Miami Heat defenders above the break? Not surprisingly Hassan Whiteside tops the list as the best, followed by Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo. The least effective ones for the Heat above the break are Jordan Mickey, Wayne Ellington, and Kelly Olynyk.

Restricted Area versus Above Break Defense

PLAYER RA BRK
PLAYER RA BRK
Hassan Whiteside 57.7 34.3
James Johnson 60.1 35.5
Goran Dragic 61.2 35.7
Bam Adebayo 64.4 35.9
Josh Richardson 58.1 36.3
Tyler Johnson 59.6 36.4
Dion Waiters 60.6 37.4
Kelly Olynyk 62.5 37.8
Justise Winslow 60.0 38.7
Wayne Ellington 60.5 39.7
Jordan Mickey 56.8 46.5
Derrick Walton Jr. 64.1 60.5

Now who would protect the rim if Whiteside goes outside the painted area? The stats show Mickey is a good rim protector, but fails defensively out on the perimeter. Going against the accepted norm of Hassan planting himself in the paint, the numbers point to using his elite defensive prowess wherever the greatest danger lies. Fans saw that when he defended Blake Griffin in the Los Angeles Clippers victory.

The table also hints Mickey is a better rim protector than Adebayo, while Bam’s extraordinary foot speed works best outside the restricted area. As Justise Winslow said, the Heat have the most success when they move actively and communicate on defensive switches.

The notion of Whiteside working from the high post to both dish out assists and defend 3-point perimeter shots seems counter to what he was pigeon-holed into during his first season. Making an adjustment to use his elite defensive both inside AND outside the paint, while finding others to protect the rim in a collective effort, whenever Hassan ventures out to protect the arc, requires a total team commitment to defense.