What does Hassan Whiteside bring to the Portland Trail Blazers next season?
Early Monday morning, the Portland Trail Blazers looked to have made their move of the offseason. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Blazers have traded Meyers Leonard to the Miami Heat and Moe Harkless to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for center Hassan Whiteside as part of a larger deal.
Jimmy Butler decided to sign with the Heat. Due to Miami’s cap situation, they needed to clear some room to allow for the signing. After already sending Josh Richardson to Philadelphia and failing to trade some combination of Goran Dragic, Derrick Jones Jr., and Kelly Olynyk to the Dallas Mavericks, team president Pat Riley moved onto moving Whiteside.
Since signing a 4 year, $98 million deal in 2016, Whiteside has been extremely inconsistent. After a solid first couple of seasons in the South Beach, his inconsistencies proved to be too much for coach Eric Spoelstra. He ended up being benched for Bam Adebayo mid way through this past year.
Before this trade, Whiteside was on his last legs as a viable starter in this league. Now on the Blazers, he will have an opportunity to start unimpeded at center while Jusuf Nurkic recovers from a broken leg.
On an expiring deal, Portland hopes to bring out a re-motivated version of Whiteside. When you take into account his relationship with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, there is increased hope that Whiteside can provide value as a stopgap until Nurkic returns.
So what can Whiteside bring to Portland?
The first thing that jumps out with Whiteside is his frame. Standing close to 7-feet tall and weighing in at 265 pounds, he is a wonder of a physical specimen. As centers are seeming to get mobile, and requisitely smaller, his size can provide an advantage down low.
Whiteside can this frame and athleticism to potentially be a force out of the pick and roll. Last season, he had an effective field goal percentage of 69.5% as a roll man in the pick and roll and a scoring frequency of 64.3%.
Arguably Whiteside’s great strength is his shot blocking prowess. Even during his time at Marshall, he was the blocks leader in the nation as a freshman. After bouncing around the league, he was finally able to find a home with the Heat.
Portland’s defense heavily depends on its centers to provide backside protection, especially considering the defensive deficiencies of their backcourt. Although Zach Collins could easily slide into the spot that was opened up with Nurkic’s injury, his fouling issues and future as a power forward makes Whiteside a better fit.
Whiteside is an extremely solid rebounder. In 2017, he led the league in rebounding. When in the correct position, he can almost singlehandedly control the boards for Portland.
Finally, Whiteside is in a contract year, with his $27.1 million salary up after this year. While he has struggled with effort and consistency in the past, an added boost of auditioning for a new deal can never hurt.
The most concerning thing about having Hassan Whiteside on the Portland Trail Blazers is his attitude. His energy on the court is constantly fluctuating, especially since the team drafted Adebayo. While he always seemed to put up decent numbers, his impact to winning basketball drastically fell recently.
A big part of this was due to Whiteside’s propensity for hunting his own shot. After spending most of his early years with Miami as a low usage offensive player, his contract (and also Whiteside’s perception of himself) tried turning him into the Heat’s primary option. He became relatively inefficient as a scorer, and his lack of skills as a passer bogged down the team’s offense.
Additionally, while Whiteside is perceived to be a good defender, that may no longer be the case. Whiteside has turned into a block hunting maniac, and the itch for highlight plays puts him, and consequently the rest of the defense, out of position.
Whiteside is not a perfect fit for Portland, that is clear. However, for a short term solution that required very little to give up, he is about as good as you can get.
If the Blazers can get the best out of Whiteside, they will not have much of a drop off in production from the center spot. With Lillard and McCollum, friends of Whiteside and two of the best leaders in the NBA, there is hope for resurrection. But if he continues to have issues, Portland can use his expiring deal to move him somewhere else.
Either way, Portland will look forward to having an athlete that they have probably never had at the center position for a long time. Hopefully, it works out the way they intended.