Miami Heat may face a problem finding a market for Hassan Whiteside after the 2018 NBA draft added more talent at his position.
Adding 30 first-round and 30 second-round draft picks to NBA rosters this season impacts up to 60 players from last season’s rosters, who might have to look for another team or job this fall, since only a maximum number of 450 spots are available (plus 60 two-contracts, which have strict eligibility requirements).
The Thursday night’s draft crop included 6 designated centers, with 3 of them being top-7 picks: Deandre Ayton #1, Mohamed Bamba #6, Wendell Carter Jr. #7, Moritz Wagner #25, Robert Williams #27, Omari Spellman #30.
Ayton’s selection by the Phoenix Suns nails Tyson Chandler to the bench and makes the resigning of free agent Alex Len by the Suns questionable.
Bamba joins Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo as nominal centers on the Orlando Magic, who might consider offers for either of the latter two, since Bamba is a low-cost alternative.
The Chicago Bulls now have Carter, Robin Lopez and Omer Asik in the rotation for the number five spot, and three is a crowd.
The NBA already features several top big men: Joel Embiid, DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gobert, Nikola Jokic, Karl-Anthony Towns, Al Horford, Andre Drummond, Clint Capela, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard, Steven Adams, Myles Turner, Steven Adams, Jonas Valanciunas, etc.
Even on his own team, Whiteside has competition for minutes from Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo.
Unlike the summer of 2016, this year Whiteside faces a stiff challenge for a top-10 ranking, let alone top-5, among NBA rim-protectors.
To further put matters in perspective, the Heat pay Hassan the exact same salary this season ($23,775,506) as Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond or Bradley Beal get from their teams.
Zamir Bueno gave an insightful observation on how the Heat coaches changed their game over the course of last season to the benefit of Olynyk and Wayne Ellington, but at the expense of Whiteside.
”According to NBA.com, [this season] the Heat ran 431 more dribble handoffs than pervious season going from 501 possessions to 932 possessions.”
That shift went away from capitalizing on Whiteside’s unique skill sets.
”Hassan developed a knack in college for ‘finishing off the ball and crashing the offensive glass, relying on his physical tools to do so.’”
Bueno goes on to explain how pick-and-roll favors Whiteside, if done to perfection.
”Here, a perimeter player walked the basketball up to the three-point line and waved for Hassan to set the screen. Whiteside then stayed in screening position until the perimeter player analyzed his defender for the next course of action. If the defender remained underneath the screen, the perimeter player would shoot the open jumper and Whiteside would maintain his position to force the defender to contest the shot.
”Once the shot was taken, Hassan would run to about the restricted area to get in position for an opportunity at the rebound. This offensive system keyed into his strengths as a player, dunking and rebounding.”
Since Whiteside isn’t a natural ball-handler like Olynyk, switching to hand-offs exposes his weakness in making good decisions with the ball in his hands, and lead to a reduced floor time for him last season.
The scenario of a Miami player taking the ball to the 3-point line, and if a defender doesn’t pick him up, launching a 3-point pull-up jumper leads to a tough choice for the Heat coaches on whether to favor defensive or offensive specialists on the court.
Last season, of all NBA players attempting 40 or more pull-up jump shots, Justise Winslow was dead last in makes with a FG% and EFG% of 19%.
Luke Babbitt lead Miami with an EFG% of 68% on pull-up jump shoting, but his defense isn’t on the same level as Winslow’s.
In an ideal world for the Miami Heat, the five players on the court would be two-way iluminaries able to do it all: defend, score, and hustle for 48 minutes.
In the real world though tough decisions lie ahead for the coaching staff, on which players to suround Hassan Whiteside with, to make him the cornerstone of the franchise the Heat envisioned when they signed him to a max contract in the summer of 2016.