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Scouting Hassan Whiteside’s Offensive Game

October 23, 2015: Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) shoots a lay up during the game between Miami Heat and New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, LA. (Photograph by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire)
Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire

#HeatTwitter’s favorite son Hassan Whiteside burst onto the scene last year, cracking the regular rotation in January and never looking back. From Jan. 3 onward, Whiteside averaged 13.7 points on 63.5 percent shooting from the field to go along with 11.5 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per contest. Overall, he averaged 11.8 points, 10 rebounds and 2.6 blocks to solidify the middle for Miami in an otherwise dreadful, injury-filled, fan rant-inducing season.

Most importantly, Whiteside raised his 2K rating. So that’s always fun:

So far this season, Whiteside has at least proven that last season’s showing wasn’t a fluke. He’s averaging 12.8 points, 10.9 rebounds and a league-leading four blocks on the year. Teams certainly have him on the scouting report (we’ll dig into that shortly), but he’s still dunking on fools on one end and swatting shots like they’re mosquitoes in the deep country on the other.

With all this being said, let’s take time to focus on the finer points of his offense — for better and for worse — to get into what makes Whiteside so successful and where he still has room to grow.

POST GAME 

It’s pretty hard to get a read on what Whiteside’s ceiling is as a post-up player. He has solid touch around the basket, showcases solid footwork at times and can finish over either shoulder with a hook shot. In fact, he was one of the league’s most efficient post players last year, cashing in 51 percent of his attempts last season. But that efficiency hasn’t carried over to this year:

hassan post

A year after being one of the league’s best post guys, Whiteside now ranks in the 25th percentile.

What’s different this year?

The major difference is that teams know what Whiteside is going to do once he gets the ball on the block. He can finish over either shoulder, but he typically wants to go righty hook over his left shoulder — especially when he’s on the left block. Here, he flashed down the lane in transition, sealed off Steven Adams and sprinkled in the jump hook:

Here he was defended by Kevin Love, and his move was the same — a little fake, then a righty hook:

Whiteside doesn’t go to the baseline spin as often as he did last year, but he felt Tiago Splitter overplay him here:

He got Aron Baynes on the same move Tuesday night against the Detroit Pistons:

Basically, when Whiteside can get solid positioning and is decisive with his moves, his combination of quickness, strength, length and touch is hard for opposing big men to deal with.

Of course, that’s Good Hassan.

Bad Hassan can struggle to get good positioning or rush himself. He did both against Andre Drummond on this shot:

Bad Hassan can also stagnate offenses when he takes too long, like on this possession against Derrick Favors:

Here’s an example of a team digging down and swiping when he’s in the middle of his spin (even though he somehow scored):

Whiteside’s passing ability is, well, virtually non-existent. And for someone with pretty good hands, he gets stripped quite a bit. Among 39 players with at least 50 post-up shot attempts, Whiteside turns the ball over at a higher rate (17.3 percent) than all but three players — Dwight Howard (18.9 percent), Roy Hibbert (18.2 percent) and Robin Lopez (18.2 percent).

Because he has a tendency to force the issue, he throws up shots from awkward spots on the floor and doesn’t draw many fouls. Among those same 39 players, Whiteside’s shooting foul frequency rate ranks 28th, his free throw rate ranks 33rd and his overall scoring frequency ranks 36th.

Sure, with more experience, Whiteside should be able to react to double teams quicker and find his teammates. It may be plausible to assume that, once the game slows down for him, he’ll be able to put guys under the basket and force them to foul him. It’s also fair to point out that Whiteside has played a grand total of 94 games (with 59 starts) in his NBA career.

At this point, though, it’s undeniable that Whiteside’s mental game just isn’t up to par yet. The skill and physical gifts are there, but as teams have adjusted to Whiteside’s go-to moves, it’s now up to him to add counters, but also to gain a better understanding of where the help is coming from and where his teammates are so they can help him.

You know, opposed to forcing up bad shots over seven people or being stripped into oblivion.

P&R/SCREENING

One thing that has carried over from last year is Whiteside’s success as a pick-and-roll threat. After producing 1.41 points per possession (PPP) on 72.6 percent shooting as a roll man last year, Whiteside is producing 1.31 PPP on 77.1 percent shooting this season. Among the 42 players with at least 50 possessions as a roll-man, Whiteside ranks first in field goal percentage and effective field goal percentage (eFG), third in and-1 frequency and first in scoring frequency.

When you have hands, height, nimble feet, solid jumping ability, a 7’7 wingspan and Dwyane Wade, it’s hard not to have success. #WadesideStory is a thing for a reason:

Because of Whiteside being so dangerous as a finisher, his gravity draws in help defenders anytime he rolls to the basket.

Here, Wade called for a high pick from Whiteside:

hassan sag 1

Whiteside slipped the screen and Boston crowded the paint to cut off the lob:

hassan sag 2

Obviously, it also doesn’t help that Justise Winslow (God bless him) was in the corner. That made it easier for Avery Bradley to totally disregard his existence sag off and help close off the lane.

Regardless, Whiteside gets the job done more often than not. He’s flushed down 21 alley-oop dunks this season, tied with Anthony Davis for fourth in the NBA.

The downside to Whiteside off the ball is, well, I’ll just be blunt…he flat-out stinks as a screen-setter. In pick-and-roll situations or simply screening off the ball as part of a play, it’s hard to recall seeing someone his size being so bad or unwilling as a screener.

On this play, most people would admire Russell Westbrook’s speed and instincts on this steal, but check out the “screen” by Whiteside:

Your eyes didn’t fail you. He literally didn’t touch Westbrook at all on this down-screen. That turnover really should’ve been given to Whiteside instead of Josh McRoberts.

On this play, you can blame Washington for some pretty shoddy defense, or give props to Goran Dragic on this wrap-around pass. But again, look at Whiteside set a “screen” here:

In the words of Stephen A. Smith, “a dead clock is right twice a day,” because, holy smokes, Whiteside sometimes gets the urge to put a body on someone when he sets screens. Shockingly, he got himself a lob out of this:

With Whiteside’s play in the post, you can point to his feel for the game or just needing more experience playing against NBA defenses. Whiteside in pick-and-roll is a totally different ball game. He’s already a physical beast and can find creases in defenses when rolling to the rim.

It’s scary (and frustrating) to think that he could actually be even more dangerous if HE ACTUALLY SET SOLID SCREENS MORE THAN ONCE A WEEK. It’s hard to imagine that with a head coach who pays attention to detail like Erik Spoelstra, and with mentors like Juwan Howard and Alonzo Mourning around all the time, nobody has pointed out Whiteside’s lack of screening. It’s clearly quite obvious.

Despite his flaws, Whiteside has been a productive and valuable offensive player for the Miami Heat this season. With more experience and hard work on the minor things, we could really see him blossom moving forward.

All stats via NBA.com/stats

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