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Hassan Whiteside is Still an Enigma, But Good Gawd He’s Swell

David Santiago/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

There’s not a person roaming the planet who could say they saw Hassan Whiteside coming when he was at Marshall. Not an honest one, at least. Sure, there may have been a few somewhat high on him, even daring to think he might play meaningful minutes in the NBA at some point, but not a single soul could have foretold of Hassan Whiteside — arguably the best center in the NBA.

Whether or not he is actually the very best at his position isn’t all that important. His journey to get to his current place in the NBA and his rather insane production is, though. To fully understand the sheer amount of insanity this is, let’s backtrack for a moment.

Whiteside was not a heavily sought after recruit. He wasn’t considered an abomination of a talent, but there were 18 other centers (according to Scout) more highly ranked than him coming out of high school in 2009. Obviously, that does not scream future NBA dominance. Really, it doesn’t even scream college greatness. It is more like, “Oh yay! Marshall got a decent player” and stuff.

He did make the most out of his one year at Marshall. During his freshman campaign, Whiteside would claim three triple-doubles (by way of BLOCKS, not assists), and finish the year with a neat looking 13-9-5.4 box-score. In fact, he showed enough flashes of (only) competence that he left school to pursue his professional dreams.

This is where the story starts to get a bit confusing. You know, with the ability of hindsight being afforded to us. Whiteside wasn’t drafted until the second-round (33rd overall) of the 2010 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings. As per Sacramento basketball law, things worked out poorly.

To be fair to the Kings, big men tend to take a long time to develop. Whiteside wasn’t ready, had injury issues, and was nowhere near the player he is now, partly explaining why he only saw 19 games in two years with the organization.

The puzzling part here, however, is that Sacramento saw him every single day and must have thought little in the way of Whiteside’s future, as he was off and on sent to the D-League—with his career with the franchise culminating by way of being waived in 2012.

Normally this would be the end of our hero’s journey. Well, at least through the lens of Whiteside’s NBA career. The seven-footer would spend much of the next two years in Lebanon and China, where he developed enough that the Miami Heat signed him in 2014.

Thing is, it wasn’t that Miami thought Whiteside was going to be awesome. The first thing they did when they acquired the then journeyman center was assign him to the D-League. It was Miami’s iffy big-men on the roster at the time which forced them to call him up only a few days later.

Even then, no one thought anything of the guy. Nor was there reason to. He was seemingly yet another random large man who spent the first four years of his pro career playing all over (your) god’s green creation. This wasn’t going to mean anything, right? Wrong… or whatever cool “gotcha” phrases cool kids use.

This took me longer to figure out how to do than I'd like to admit.

This took me longer to figure out how to do than I’d like to admit.

To be fair to those who were still skeptical of Whiteside heading into the season, the sample size was only a little over half of a season. Still, in 48 gamesc—while barely playing over 23 minutes per game—Hassan Whiteside put up stupid-crazy numbers. Seriously 12 points, 10 boards, and 2.6 blocks per game from a random big?

More questions remained heading into this season than answers. It still doesn’t make sense that Whiteside is even in the NBA right now, nevertheless thriving in it. No matter, as he’s currently putting up video game-like numbers.

Let this travel throughout your entire cranium, eventually touching nerve endings which will make you smile: Our random, shouldn’t belong at all seven-footer is averaging 14.6 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 4.0 blocks per game this season, while roaming about the hardwood as a mastodon with a 26.53 PER.

To put that in a better— albeit misleading—perspective: Whiteside is fifth in the NBA in rebounds, third in field goal percentage (62 percent), first in blocks, and has a higher PER than both Chris Paul (18.59) and John Wall (18.94). They’re also not mastodons.

Want to get even more absurd with it all? Let’s use stats to inaccurately oversell how good Hassan Whiteside has been! Here is Bill Russell when he was 26 compared to Whiteside who is 26 now.

(This is per 36. Thanks in advance, Basketball-Reference)

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What in the holy hell? Yup. Hassan Whiteside is better at 26 than Bill Russell. It is now mathematical fact. Science even. A science which should be adopted into religious views—Hassan Whiteside is a gawd. Eh, putting my hate for folks who skew stats to weird degrees to help fit a narrative aside, I digress.

The point here being (I think); Hassan Whiteside is unreal. Like, one of a kind. We need to pay more attention to him, appreciate his journey that helped to get him to this point, and stop with the nitpicking of his game.

Let’s enjoy it together, friends. Random journeyman bigs becoming players of consequence in the NBA does not happen very often. Especially not to the degree Whiteside has.

To make it official, in the comments section debate who you would prefer to be your favorite team’s “big” (power forward or center) out of these three guys moving forward: Hassan Whiteside, Dwight Howard, or Boogie Cousins?

And the world has been set on fire.

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