Miami Heat: Hassan Whiteside 2016-17 season review

Jan 17, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Houston Rockets center Clint Capela (15) guards Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 17, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Houston Rockets center Clint Capela (15) guards Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

Hassan Whiteside was criticized quite a lot over the offseason, but he played well in 2016-17, proving that he is one of the best big men in the NBA.

The Miami Heat have made a relatively easy transition to life after their big three, and one of the major reasons the transition has been so seamless is because of the elite play of Hassan Whiteside. The former Sacramento King has often been called overrated by so called NBA experts, with Jeremias Engelmann of ESPN labeling him one of the most overrated players in the league just one year ago.

Whiteside was often accused of chasing blocks at the expense of playing good team defense, and although I never agreed with these comments, he managed to prove a lot of his doubters wrong in the 2016-17 campaign as he was excellent at both ends of the floor.

One of the major reasons Hassan Whiteside looked better on the offensive side of the ball was because he was a better fit in the Heat’s offense, which become based more on ball movement and slashing to the paint than running isolation plays for Joe Johnson and Dwayne Wade. The Heat did not run a pace offense, but there was more dynamism and off the ball movement, which Whiteside took advantage of.

Whiteside is not really a player who backs down into the post and bullies his way to the score in the way that many other centers do, but his athleticism and speed make him an effective piece in the Heat’s new look offense.

He was a pick-and-roll master this season, as he ranked in the 83rd percentile as a roll man, and he was one of the only effective pick and roll pieces on a Heat team that struggled as a pick-and-roll unit despite running a pick-and-roll heavy offense. Whiteside was reliable, and it was actually odd that he was not used more often, as he was only used as the roll man on 2.6 possessions per game.

Miami Heat
Miami Heat /

Miami Heat

The concern with Whiteside offensively, is that he still struggles as a post-up player. The Heat evolved their offense, but being able to dump the ball off inside will always be important in order to run down the clock and create space on the perimeter. Whiteside ranked in the 33rd percentile as a post-up player, which was the second-worst of the 15 players with four or more post-ups per game, ahead of only Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons.

The Whiteside post-ups are essentially wasted possessions, because he just does not have the array of post moves needed to succeed. In order for him to take fewer post-ups, the Heat need to add another wing playmaker, as this would minimize the need for Whiteside to play as a post-up player, and would allow the Heat to run a more pick-and-roll heavy system.

Whiteside is a useful player offensively, and unlike a lot of rim protectors, he is not totally detrimental to a team-based offense. He showed polish at the rim this year, and his versatility as a cutter and as a roll man adds a different dimension to the Heat system.

He also continued to be very valuable defensively, and it is fair to say that he improved as an all-around defender, despite not collecting as many blocks as he did in the previous season. One reason his block numbers have decreased is because people now see him as a genuine deterrent, and it was clear that teams were avoiding him.

One of the reasons the Heat defense was so good this season was because Erik Spoelstra’s plan was flawless, and worked inside and outside. The Heat play an aggressive perimeter defense, and if players beat the press, then they end up going into the paint against Hassan Whiteside, who showed he is one of the most formidable shot blockers in the league.

Of players who played 40 games and defended four shots at the rim per game, Whiteside was sixth in defensive field goal percentage. He not only defended well when people actually tested him inside, but he acted as a deterrent, and forced people to play outside against the Heat’s tough and stifling perimeter defense.

Whiteside was also a monster on the boards, which was important as Erik Spoelstra often opted for four-out small-ball lineups. Whiteside was second in defensive rebounding rate behind only Andre Drummond, and he helps the Heat justify their small-ball lineups.

Most of the criticism that was leveled Hassan Whiteside’s way last season was based on nothing but tired narrative. To question his character without actually watching the games and knowing the type of guy he is is counter-productive. Whiteside is an elite rim protector, a fantastic rebounder and he is good enough as a jump shooter for defenses to not be able to afford to leave him open at midrange.

Many teams that run small-ball systems struggle with rebounding and with having an interior presence at both ends of the floor. Whiteside solves all of these problems. For teams such as Boston and Washington, he would be able to improve their defense and rebounding without compromising offensive flexibility. The fact that Whiteside received such an unfair narrative has helped the Heat out, as they managed to tie down a franchise player because other teams did not believe in him.

Next: 2017 NBA Mock Draft: Post-Lottery edition

Whiteside improved greatly, and his trade value skyrocketed, as he showed that he can be a part of a modern NBA spread-style offense. Miami probably wants to contend soon, but if they opt for a rebuild, then they have a very movable player who will interest a lot of teams that do not have a good interior defense or rebounding presence.