The story and meteoric rise of Hassan Whiteside has been fascinating. He was a potential first-round pick in the 2010 draft who fell because of some questions about his maturity. He ended up being selected by the Sacramento Kings with the 33rd pick. Two years later, the Kings waived Whiteside and NBA teams didn’t touch him for the next two years. It wasn’t until 2014 when the Memphis Grizzlies decided to give him a look in training camp and preseason.
He never made the Grizzlies but he ended up finding his way to the Miami Heat a month later. From there, he’s gone from being a D-League project for the Heat to becoming a player putting up huge scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking numbers. He became almost too good not to play, despite needing to grasp more of the team concepts Erik Spoelstra wanted him to have. In 2015-16, he ended up leading the NBA in blocked shots, was a double-double machine and has become an intriguing free agent in the summer of 2016 when the salary cap jump is providing all kinds of chaos in potential deals.
Teams are enamored with him and the Lakers are reportedly going to make a big push for him. The Heat are in need of keeping him around, and only having early Bird rights for re-signing him makes it much more than academic. They have to renounce some of their own free agents’ rights (Luol Deng, Udonis Haslem, maybe Tyler Johnson) in order to pay him near max, or max money, which he’s likely to command. Considering how many teams have room for a max free agent and the premium always put on a presence inside, Whiteside is no longer having to call teams to see if they’ll sign him. He can sit back and look at all of the praise and dollar signs being thrown his way.
He’s enjoying the whole experience so far.
Hassan Whiteside on free agency: “I find it flattering. In my past I was trying to call those teams. Now it’s the other way around.”
Whiteside told reporters that he and Heat president Pat Riley had a positive meeting recently. Most years, the Heat would be in a great position to re-sign a guy like Whiteside, but he’s outplayed the pace at which you’d hope to bring a player along before having to throw big money his way.
Instead, the Heat will have to worry about whether or not they can keep Whiteside committed to the franchise that gave him his latest shot to make something of his NBA career. Whiteside was also asked by the media about remaining with the Heat. It was a question that clearly required some thought:
It’s tough to know if Whiteside’s answer of “we’ll see” is avoiding the possibility that he may just want to be somewhere else at the next stage of his career or if he’s just throwing uncertainty out there because it’s a smart negotiating ploy. Make sure the Heat want to offer you as much money as possible and use your leverage to make it happen. That’s a very realistic and reasonable tactic.
However, Whiteside doesn’t really have to show loyalty toward the Heat. At times, it seemed like he was frustrated by not being a definite starter after showing he deserved to play. The Heat battled some maturity issues with him on the court, but for the most part, it’s been a real success story for Whiteside and the Heat’s development of him.
The bright lights of Los Angeles and the Lakers will call, as will dozens of teams looking for a center who could be a big presence. He said he hopes to have his decision done by July 1 — the first day teams can officially talk to free agents.
Whichever way he’s leaning, Whiteside isn’t tipping his hand yet. We’ll just have to wait — possibly just a few more days.
Courtesy: CBS Sports