Last season, Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside established himself as one of the best centers in the NBA, averaging 17.0 points, 14.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 32.6 minutes per game.
However, he is in the midst of a wildly-confusing campaign. This season, the big man is averaging 14.4 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in just 25.8 minutes per contest. He has played nearly seven minutes fewer per game than last year.
A number of factors have contributed to Whiteside’s overall decline, and most noticeably his drop in playing time. Head coach Erik Spoelstra has had a much shorter leash for Whiteside due to the free agent signing of Kelly Olynyk and rookie presence of Bam Adebayo. On many nights, Spoelstra has elected to give Adebayo most of the minutes in the fourth quarter, as he clearly feels more confident closing games with the rookie over the highest-paid player on his team.
Whiteside also dealt with a nagging knee injury earlier in the season. He has looked lethargic and disinterested at times as well.
Looking at Whiteside’s game log is a painful reminder of his inconsistency.
On Friday, he went 2-of-6 from the floor for four points and posted nine rebounds in 18 minutes in a loss to Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers. On Wednesday, he went just 2-for-4 from the floor for nine points with eight rebounds in 24 minutes in a narrow loss to the defensively-challenged Cleveland Cavaliers. But the game before that, he went 10-for-15 in a monster performance against the Dallas Mavericks in which he put up 25 points and brought down 14 rebounds in just 26 minutes.
That’s just a small sample, but it essentially sums up his season as a whole.
The center offered an explanation for the inconsistency.
“I try to do what’s best for the team,” Whiteside said, per Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald. “A lot of the times when I don’t get that many shots it could be the [other team’s] scheme. They could be packing the paint. Then I’m trying to get the win. Some games, guys are going better than others. There’s sometimes I was trying to force it to Wayne [Ellington] because he was knocking down a lot of shots and I was just trying to keep it going.”
Although Whiteside has shown a willingness to kick the ball out of the post if defenses collapse on him, that doesn’t necessarily explain his inconsistency. It’s also worth noting that he’s averaging 0.8 assists per game and he has averaged just 0.5 for his career. Therefore, he’s looking to score most of the time he catches the ball in the post.
When asked further about his random inactivity on the offensive end of the floor, the big man explained that he demands the ball and threw his teammates under the bus.
“I mean, I always feel I’ve got a good matchup,” Whiteside said. “I always go to Spo and tell them guys to throw it down there. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. I have no control over that.”
Whiteside is in the second year of a four-year, $98.4 million contract with the Heat. His name has been thrown around in rumors ahead of the February 8 trade deadline. Although he was initially considered as the building block of the organization a couple summers ago, the presence of Adebayo and Olynyk coupled with his lack of consistency might have already made Whiteside expendable in Miami.