The Miami Heat’s enigmatic center Hassan Whiteside is off to a good start. A very good one.
A swat-tastic one, even.
Through 15 games, Whiteside is averaging 4.8 blocks a night — first in the NBA, and would rank ahead of 14 TEAMS:
If that pace continues, Whiteside’s block average would be the 4th highest in NBA history and the highest since Manute Bol averaged an even five blocks per contest exactly 30 seasons ago.
The man is averaging 8.4 blocks per 100 possessions! The list of players to average over eight blocks per 100 possessions is a very short one.
In fact, Whiteside’s 72 blocks through 15 games is tied for the 3rd best start in the last 30 years. He’s one of five players to have 70 or more blocks in the first 15 games of a season:
Pay special attention to Whiteside’s minutes and his fouls. He has the least minutes and fouls of the players on the list by a pretty considerable margin. His block-to-foul ratio, if that’s even a thing, is 2.32. None of the other players he’s listed with is averaging two blocks per foul. That speaks to Whiteside’s timing, and also his tendency to chase blocks but I’ll let that ride for now.
Whiteside has been such a presence on the defensive end that you almost forget about the 14 points and nearly 12 rebounds (11.8) he averages a game.
Whiteside is an elite finisher in the pick-and-roll, ranking in the 89th percentile as a roll-man per Synergy. He’s shown an ability to finish in the post with an array of jump hooks when he’s decisive and doesn’t force anything, but teams have sent doubles his way to take advantage of his inability to make quick reads as a passer. Regardless, Whiteside is still 60% shooting from the field.
Whiteside has played exactly 82 career games, so he’s still inexperienced. He has proven two things, though:
1. He’s for real. Last year wasn’t a fluke.
2. He has incredible timing, both on and off the court.
The second part matters here because he’s set to hit unrestricted free agency this summer juuust in time for the first year of the cap boom, thanks to the multi-billion dollar TV deal the NBA was able to agree to. Since Whiteside is (technically) in his fourth season, he’s eligible for a 25% max. Assuming the salary cap jumps to $90 million as projected, a five-year max for Whiteside would be worth well over $110 million.
But is he worth that much?
In a vacuum, the answer is probably no because he isn’t an elite offensive talent — although he’s a very important one to Miami — and despite his insane block numbers, he’s not really an elite defender.
However, once you consider DeAndre Jordan and Enes Kanter both got maxed out last offseason, and an argument could be made that neither one of them are as good as Whiteside, the max-side discussion tilts in favor of Miami’s Sultan of Swat.
Just for proof’s sake, here are their stats over the last two years:
Whiteside may not be as offensively gifted as Kanter, or the above the rim spectacle or glass crasher that Jordan is, but his combination of rebounding, shot blocking, and finishing ability is on par or better than both. Oh, and Whiteside is 26 years old without as much NBA wear-and-tear on his body as Jordan or Kanter.
I’m not quite sure how Pat Riley and Miami’s scouting team found Whiteside, but Heat fans should be thanking their lucky stars that they did. After a coming-out party last year, Whiteside has quite literally thrown a block party this year.
Whiteside has helped make Miami a threat in the East, put himself on the map and into the early Defensive Player of the Year discussion, has made himself a legitimate All-Star candidate, and has made it very hard not to call him a top five center in basketball this year.
He should and most likely will be paid handsomely for all of it by the Heat — or elsewhere.