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Dwyane Wade.

Dwayne Wade insists Hassan Whiteside should be in the race for Defensive Player of the Year

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At 34-years-old with three NBA Championships and 12 All-Star appearances under his belt, it's fair to say that Miami Heat man Dwyane Wade has seen it all.

After missing out on the postseason for the first time in seven years last term, the almost legendary shooting guard has been enjoying a renaissance of sorts with the new look, faster-paced Heat since the All-Star break.

The Florida franchise are now sitting in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and despite the ongoing absence of star forward Chris Bosh, there has been several new factors that have prevented the Heat from experiencing a similar decline to that of last year.

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The acquisition of Joe Johnson has certainly been one. Allowing Goran Dragic to run the offence has been another. However, Wade believes the chief ingridient to the Heat's soaring form lies with the development of Hassan Whiteside.

Whilst Kawhi Leonard might be widely regarded as one of the best defenders in the league, Wade thinks it's about time that Whiteside entered that conversation.

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"He's going to different levels that a lot of people haven't seen," Wade said of Whiteside. "That defensive player of the year conversation needs to be had. His impact on the game is that big. I'm happy for the way he's approached it. He's getting better and better and better with his maturity. And his basketball is really going to another level. In my eyes, looking around the league, he's the defensive player of the year."

26-year-old Whiteside currently leads the league with 237 blocked shots this season, which is nearly 80 more than his nearest rival, DeAndre Jordan.

Whiteside also dropped a career-high 27 points in the Heat's victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night, and his veteran teammate decided to give him a pair of custom-made sandals as a gift.

Golden State Warriors v Miami Heat

As homage to Whiteside's incredible defence, the right sandal reads 'agent', while the left one reads 'block'.

"D-Wade, he just doesn't give lobs, he gives gifts," Whiteside said as he waved around Wade's gift. "Long live D-Wade - an amazing teammate. I love that man. That's my guy."

Whiteside has been earning plaudits away from South Beach, too. After being on the receiving end of another dominant performance, Nets coach Tony Brown had some kind words of his own for the center.

Miami Heat v Atlanta Hawks

"I'd like to be his agent right now," said Brown. "He's unbelievably gifted. He makes tough shots and finishes around the basket; [something] that you just don't see a lot of guys do. He's been playing great. For whatever reason, they like him coming off the bench. Whenever he's on the floor, he's a threat because of his size, length, ability to finish at the rim and, obviously, shot-blocking."

With Whiteside finishing up his two-year deal and entering free agency this summer, general manager Pat Riley will have to come up big if he intends to keep his new found superstar.

Topics:
Miami Heat
Southeast Division
Eastern Conference
NBA
Dwyane Wade
Hassan Whiteside

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