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Can Hassan Whiteside ever become the dominant force Pat Riley envisioned?

With the lastest rumors on Miami chasing a whale, Whiteside has emerged as a potential movable piece.

Miami Heat v Toronto Raptors Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Hassan Whiteside is a genuinely funny and athletically gifted individual, who has worked years overseas before snagging a maximum contract from the Miami Heat. Yet some reporters such as Zach Lowe have written Whiteside could be expendable for the right price. Might the Heat regret such a move later on, if Hassan becomes the player Pat Riley hoped would lead Miami to a championship?

Whiteside’s many faults have been well-documented, yet his sheer athletic ability remains elite. One recent article, “Hassan Whiteside, Serial Pump-Fake Biter” cites a potentially correctable habit he could minimize in order to reach the next level.

”Mention the most sought-after defensive attributes for a big man and the phrase ‘rim-protection’will be thrown around like a pigskin on Sundays. The image of rim-protection that undoubtedly jumps in your head: a long, gangly big man swatting shots at the rim and waving his finger like Dikembe Mutombo.”

Adam Spinella observes one fault which prevents Whiteside from achieving a top-tier defensive status is his tendency of trying to chase blocks.

”But Hassan has a bad habit he must break if he wants to elevate himself into that top tier: trying to block every single shot. Few players bite on more pump fakes and leave their feet more than Whiteside, who is clearly just looking to use his length and pad his stats.”

As Spinella illustrates with a video clip, when Whiteside bites for a pump fake, good bye rim protection, “One simple show-and-go takes all the rim-protection away from Miami’s defense:”

As an example Spinella cites Hassan’s poor post-up defensive FG% of 64%. For that reason, among others, coach Erik Spoelstra puts Kelly Olynyk and Goran Dragic on floor in fourth quarters. Their superior Points Per Possession (PPP) numbers in post-up defense suggests less mistakes during crunch-time minutes.

Post-Up Defense

PLAYER PPP FG% PCTL
PLAYER PPP FG% PCTL
Goran Dragic 0.67 37.5 84.8
Kelly Olynyk 0.71 33.3 80.1
Jordan Mickey 0.75 40.0 n/a
Bam Adebayo 0.77 50.0 70.7
Josh Richardson 0.82 37.0 58.5
Wayne Ellington 0.88 46.2 44.2
Tyler Johnson 0.89 46.2 42.8
Justise Winslow 0.93 38.5 32.9
Hassan Whiteside 1.00 56.3 24.6
James Johnson 1.04 50.0 22.9
Okaro White 1.20 75.0 n/a
Dion Waiters 1.24 60.0 3.3
Derrick Jones Jr. 3.00 100.0 n/a

PCTL is a player’s percentile ranking relative to otherplayers: the higher the better.

Notice Derrick Jones Jr. inexperience in those situations. Both him and Bam Adebayo are only 20 years old, so as get they familiar with the tricks of NBA veterans, their numbers hopefully will improve. As we saw in the Toronto Raptors game, the crafty veteran Wayne Ellington pulled a similar fake move, and left his defender behind as Ellington scored the winning basket at an unprotected rim.

The question remains whether Whiteside can ever go from Version 1.0 to 2.0. Spoelstra only wants the best for Hassan, whether Whiteside realizes it or not. One encouraging sign is the chemistry he has with Adebayo, which may elevate Hassan’s game this season.

A defensive five of Whiteside, Adebayo, Derrick Jones Jr., Josh Richardson, and Dragic helped hold the Raptors to an astonishing 89 points: quite an accomplishment indeed.