After the Miami Heat lost to the Brooklyn Nets on March 31, Hassan Whiteside was as furious and candid as could be. Not with losing to the Nets at home, but with how the Heat used him. Whiteside played only 20 minutes in the overtime loss, which he took issue with because, as he put it, “We’ve got one of the best centers in the league.”
Whiteside then raised some eyebrows when he followed that up saying, “A lot of teams don’t have a good center. They are going to use their strengths. It’s bulls—. It’s really bulls—, man. There are a lot of teams that could use a center.”
Perhaps Whiteside was just letting off some steam, and Head Coach Erik Spoelstra has since swept the matter under the rug, but as the old saying goes, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. If there’s fire to this one, then this summer just got a whole lot more interesting.
Since he exploded onto the scene in 2015, Whiteside has been one of the league’s most efficient bigs. In the last four seasons with the Heat, Whiteside has averaged a double-double each year while also leading the league in blocks in 2016 and rebounds in 2017. When he has his head on straight, Whiteside is a great weapon to have.
At the same time, getting value out of Whiteside might be difficult given that he’s owed $25+ million over the next two seasons. Not to mention, his market might be tough since relevant NBA names traded last summer such as Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George (presumably) were all sold off for scraps when they were dealt.
Still, if Pat Riley puts his highest-paid player on the trading block this summer, then he should expect a call from the following teams.
This is all contingent on if LeBron James decides to stay a Cavalier this summer, but if the King stays in Cleveland, then the Cavaliers should go all-in on Whiteside. For the past couple of years, Cleveland’s defense has fallen off the face of the earth, with this season especially being their worst. According to NBA.com, the Cavaliers currently have the league’s third-lowest defensive rating at 109.4 points per 100 possessions, they allow the league’s fourth-highest number of points on average with 109.6, and are 22nd in overall rebounding percentage at 49.1 percent.
Whiteside would instantly help the Cavs in those areas, since he’s currently ranked third in overall rebounding percentage this season according to NBA.com. Better yet, Whiteside’s career individual defensive rating, according to Basketball-Reference, is 98 points allowed per 100 possessions. Cleveland’s post defense is in desperate need of an upgrade, given that none of Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love, nor Larry Nance Jr has really held the fort down.
Cleveland doesn’t have much to offer besides the Nets’ pick that they acquired from the Kyrie Irving trade, which they rightfully would be hesitant to trade. However, they might not be so hesitant if Miami agrees to absorb Thompson’s contract. Alternatively, if Miami wants cap space, then trading Whiteside for George Hill (along with possibly Nance Jr.) could be an option.
Our own Steve Kyler reported back on Jan. 30 that the Bucks had their eye on Whiteside before the trade deadline. A deal never came to fruition, but if Whiteside becomes available, the Bucks should do everything in their power to make a deal. This is for two reasons.
- The Bucks really need an upgrade at center. John Henson has averaged merely okay numbers as a starter (8.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks), Thon Maker has disappointed, and Tyler Zeller is really suited for the second unit. Whiteside would be an immediate upgrade and would be the team’s first high quality two-way big since Larry Sanders.
- The Bucks are kind of low on options. The team hasn’t made much progress since Giannis Antetokounmpo’s second season in the league, and don’t have an avenue to get much better. They don’t have the cap room to pay a star a max contract, and they have a tough decision with Jabari Parker’s restricted free agency looming this summer. Whiteside’s not a franchise-changing player, but he’s a step in the right direction. Given that Milwaukee currently ranks no. 19 in defensive rating (107.2 points per 100 possessions) and allow 106.7 points a game (no. 16 in the league), Whiteside would be an immense help.
Acquiring Whiteside would probably require a sign and trade involving Parker and Henson, but that would depend on if Miami would want those two.
Since Dallas is going to have one of the top picks in this year’s draft, and since this year’s draft class is loaded with talented bigs, it’d be hard to envision Dallas going after Whiteside if they drafted a center. However, Mark Cuban has a reputation for going after the big fish, and Whiteside qualifies as a big fish.
Even if the Mavericks have been rebuilding for the last two seasons, what they care about most right now is Dirk Nowitzki. Dallas has been steadfastly loyal to the future Hall of Famer, and the team has done everything in its power to make the end of Dirk’s career worthwhile. Adding Whiteside would improve their standing enough to make Dirk’s last year(s) memorable.
To add to that, the Mavericks desperately need a center since the Nerlens Noel experiment has blown up in their face. Adding Whiteside to a team that has a promising youth movement with Dennis Smith Jr. and whoever the Mavericks draft, along with their group of productive veterans such as Dirk, Harrison Barnes, Wes Matthews, Jose Juan Barea, and Dwight Powell, would put Dallas back in the playoff conversation.
Trading for Whiteside would be simple given that Dallas has approximately around $60 million in payroll next season. Miami could hand him over for a first or two, or the two teams could potentially agree to a sign-and-trade involving Noel, who on paper could replace some of Whiteside’s production. Better yet, with Tyler Johnson’s salary set to almost quadruple next season, Miami could cut down their luxury tax bill significantly if they rid themselves of Whiteside’s salary.
Another intriguing option would be the Washington Wizards, who could also definitely use an upgrade at the five and have some attractive young assets like Kelly Oubre Jr., but Miami probably wouldn’t want to trade Whiteside to a division rival, especially since both teams have playoff aspirations.
That’s what this all comes down to for Miami. They’re not really in a position to rebuild. They’re losing their pick to Phoenix this season and again in 2021 thanks to the Goran Dragic trade. Also, between now and 2024, the Heat will have one second-round pick.
If Heat look to trade Whiteside after this season, they’re going to want players that will help them win now in return, not a few years down the line. The potential conundrum they face is, will the players they trade for be able to replace Whiteside’s production?
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