The Downside: Why the Heat Might Have Made the Wrong Decision in Retaining Hassan Whiteside

What Will Happen in Miami?

With the NBA Draft officially in the rearview mirror, aspiring organizations in the NBA only have one way to improve their roster for next season: a little time period known as free agency. The direction of a franchise can be made or ruined by the sole decision of one player. Look at how LeBron ruined the Cavaliers after departing in 2010 and turned the Heat into a four-year powerhouse. This just shows that truly anything can happen when the clock strikes midnight on July 1st.

Why Miami Made the Wrong Decision Resigning Whiteside:

Hassan Whiteside is a fantastic player with an incredible story. His journey to the NBA is truly second to none. Over the past two years, Whiteside has proved that he deserved a maximum contract this summer, but Pat Riley initially showed an unwillingness to offer this hefty price.

In the end, Riley gave Whiteside a very generous deal. I don’t think Whiteside is going to live up to this massive (four years, $98.5 million – $24.5 million per year) contract, and here’s why:

Whiteside still has plenty left to prove. I’m sure many of you are saying that I’m wrong and that Whiteside is one of the best centers in the NBA. I completely agree that he is one of the best centers in the NBA, but the value of a center has been diminished over the past few years.

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(LM Otero/Associated Press)

Whiteside has only started 75 games throughout his career and he is already 27 years old. This age is when players are directly in their prime, so I think his value will only recede as he inches closer to 30. Whiteside wanted a long-term (4-5 year) contract because he knew this could potentially be his last shot at a monster payday. Do you honestly think Whiteside will be producing 14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 3.7 blocks per game when he is 30-31 years old? I certainly don’t think so.

I also think his stats overstate his true value on the court. As you can see right above, his statistics were spectacular last season. He finished third in the Defensive Player of the Year voting, and his rebounding and blocking abilities are second to none. His offensive arsenal has only expanded and become more polished since arriving in Miami two seasons ago.

However, statistics can be misleading. Yes, statistics are important, but making an impact on the court and helping your team win is even more important. According to  NBA.com, Miami actually played better defense when Whiteside was on the bench. How does this make any sense for someone who is considered one of the best shot blockers in the Association? Also, per ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus, Whiteside is the 24th best center in the NBA, right behind Zaza Pachulia.

Whiteside accumulates stats like it’s his job, but his impact on the court might not be as effective as advertised.

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(Miamiherald.com)

The other main reason why I don’t think Miami should resign Whiteside is because of Miami’s current salary situation. The NBA salary cap is set for $92 million next year. The Heat already has $48 million in guaranteed salary, plus another $2 million from Josh Richardson and Briante Weber. This brings their total up to $50 million, which left Pat Riley with $42 million to play with before resigning Whiteside. However, Dwyane Wade has a $30 million cap hold. He is expected to take a decent pay cut, but Pat Riley has very little wiggle room during free agency.

With Whiteside officially back in town, Miami cannot make a play for any other big name free agent. They can’t even go after most middle tier free agents. This completely hinders any other free agency plans that Riley might have, unless the Heat can find a team to take on Bosh’s (three year, $75.9 million) or Dragic’s (four year, $70.2 million) contract.

Neither of these are plausible because Bosh has been a cornerstone in Miami for six years and Dragic is the only true court general on the roster.

It would have been extremely difficult to let a promising young center walk away to another franchise, but I genuinely think it would have been the right move.

The goal in Miami is never to just make the playoffs; it’s to bring a championship to South Beach. Unfortunately, I doubt Whiteside is the player that will produce that ring.

Who’s Next?

This free agency class is not great by any means, but there is some quality talent. Here are a few players Miami could go after to complement their current core.

Jamal Crawford:

Crawford is another big time scorer. He has won NBA Sixth Man of the Year three times in his career (including this past season) and has averaged 15.5 points per game throughout his 17 years in the league. He has produced double digit scoring for fifteen straight seasons, so as you can tell, the man is a professional scorer.

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(Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

Miami is in desperate need for a big time scorer. I don’t expect Wade to leave, but if he does, Crawford would be a very quality replacement.

He won’t be even relatively close to as pricey as Whiteside or Wade, so signing a mid-tier free agent as a full-time scorer could be a sneaky and successful move for Riley to make.

Bismack Biyombo:

Biyombo would be a very nice fit in Miami. Unfortunately, he is most likely going to be very overpriced because of his impactful postseason. The man is a great defender and rebounder because of his unmatched physicality. He doesn’t provide much on the offensive end, but his impact clearly outweighs his inabilities.

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(The Associated Press)

He is only 23 years old so this is a perfect long-term project for Spoelstra and his staff to take on. If he could develop some type of offensive arsenal, he could really turn into a top center in the game by the time he hits his prime. However, reports of a very high price for Biyombo likely rule out the Heat in signing the dynamic center.

The Skinny:

Miami’s options are pretty limited in free agency, but I don’t doubt Riley’s ability to improve the roster. They definitely will not be contending for a championship next year unless Kevin Durant decides to call South Beach home, which I highly doubt will happen. Unfortunately, this isn’t going to be a blockbuster offseason for Miami, but at the end of the day, who knows what Riley has up his sleeve?

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