On April 30, Miami Heat president Pat Riley held his traditional end of season press conference and when the subject of team center Hassan Whiteside came up he didn’t mince words.
Stating that Whiteside was “…not in shape” for the Heat’s first round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers, needed to change “99 percent” of his thinking, and that “there has to be intervention…” between him and head coach Erik Spoelstra paints a somewhat grim picture.
What it also shows is the reemergence of one of the traits that kept Whiteside out of NBA rosters long term from when he was waived by the Sacramento King in 2010 to when he came to Miami in 2014, his attitude.
Whiteside’s attitude issues have been known throughout the NBA since his pre-draft interviews in 2010 and played a factor into not many teams that had the cap space going after him in 2016 even after he became a revelation as a rim protector. Him signing the four-year contract $98 million contract to be the Heat’s franchise center was seeing as both a major factor into Dwyane Wade’s initial departure from Miami and as a risk for fear that he would not put in as much effort on the court afterwards.
While It seems from the press conference that Riley is willing to be patient with Whiteside, according to a May 4 report by Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald there is a strong push within the Heat organization to trade the center. Given the aforementioned contract that becomes a tall task.
A major stumbling block in the pursuit of trading Whiteside is the Heat’s overall cap situation. With forwards James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk along with guards Dion Waiters, and Tyler Johnson commanding eight figure paychecks this upcoming season leaving little flexibility a deal for Whiteside would have to net Miami either a top end rotation player or expiring contracts to free up space to pursue the top free agents in 2019.
One possible solution that could solve both issues might be sending Whiteside to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for their own recently problematic player in forward Kawhi Leonard. The Heat would likely need to add another player (like forward Justise Wnslow) for the deal not only to match salaries in a potential Whiteside-Leonard trade but to also have enough cap room to re-sign Leonard in 2019. There is also the issue of if the Spurs would trade one headache for another.
Other possible landing spots for Whiteside include the Milwaukee Bucks, Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers, Los Angeles Clippers, and New Orleans Pelicans. All of these possible destinations present their own complications when it comes to what the Heat can get in exchange. More than likely because of this Whiteside will remain in Miami.
Even if he is traded Whiteside will have to understand that while he thinks that the team he plays for should make their opponents adjust to him, the truth is the opposite. Now that he has been a NBA starter for three seasons he is no longer a surprise that opposing scouts don’t have data on. Teams not only know Whiteside’s strengths but also his weaknesses, the same weaknesses that classic centers like him face in the modern NBA game.
Whether or not Whiteside learns this lesson in time to not be seen as another in the long line of bad NBA contracts is up to him. The Heat have been patient with him so far even going to the point of enlisting assistant coach Juwan Howard and team vice president Alonzo Mourning to be babysitters.
Unfortunately for Whiteside that patience has worn thin.