What happens when a player is granted the kingdom by default? This is the question many have wondered when it comes to Hassan Whiteside. He came onboard with the Miami Heat while Dwyane Wade was still healthy enough to lead a franchise but since then– Wade has left, thus handing the team over to the young big man.
Whiteside was just an observer in his first season with the Heat in 2014. The young Center played in 48 games, average 23 minutes but was able to have per’s of 12 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks. The Heat knew they had something special on their hands. In 2015 it all seemed to come together for the 26-year-old as his minutes, points, rebounds and blocks increased, but so did his issues.
There is a downside to being a great rim protector at a young age. You have the mind frame that you can block anything and at times he has found himself in serious foul trouble as early as the first quarter. He played in 73 games but only started 43 for various reasons. But Pat Riley knew he saw enough and wanted to reward Whiteside for his play to the tune of $22M per year. The money not only made him a fixture for the Heat, it also made him THE future of the Heat.
With a full season under his belt as the leader, his teammates will now look to him when the game gets tight and there is a basket or defensive stop that needs to be made. Whiteside now understands everything falls his shoulders as he will look to improve on his 2016 averages of 17 points and 14 rebounds per. The Heat missed the playoffs last season but they will look to bounce back as the East has opened up a bit with the departure of Paul George.
Whiteside has taken over the role once held by Dwight Howard when he was controlling the paint for the Orlando Magic. While Whiteside has been a dominant player, there looks to be a contender heading his way by way of the Philadelphia 76ers in Joe Embiid. If Whiteside can keep his head on straight and stay out of foul trouble the sky is the limit for what he and the Heat can achieve this season.
He has the skills and the money, but does he have the mentality?