Portland Trail Blazers: Why Hassan Whiteside is still a top center in the NBA

MIAMI, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 23: Hassan Whiteside of the Miami Heat greets fans before a game against the Detroit Pistons at American Airlines Arena on February 23, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 23: Hassan Whiteside of the Miami Heat greets fans before a game against the Detroit Pistons at American Airlines Arena on February 23, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images) /

Despite a rocky relationship in Miami, the Portland Trail Blazers’ newest addition in Hassan Whiteside is a lot better than anyone is giving credit him for.

Over the last few years, Hassan Whiteside has been the poster boy for bad contracts and laziness. With the high regard NBA media holds Pat Riley and the entire Miami Heat organization, it’s easy to see why everyone would believe Whiteside was the cancer in this relationship. I’m here to tell you the Portland Trail Blazers may have gotten a bit more than they bargained for, in the best of ways.

Whiteside’s albatross contract, bad attitude in Miami, and the NBA in general shifting away from traditional big men attributed to his trade value plummeting. The Blazers were able to acquire him for just Moe Harkless and Meyers Leonard. That’s a huge steal! But even still, social media reactions were mixed when news first broke.

Most Heat fans were elated to hear this news, especially to avoid any drama with newly added star Jimmy Butler. Blazers fans wanted to be happy but found it difficult to maintain that attitude considering his previous history. But Whiteside’s excitement to be in Portland and his early community involvement make it a littler easier to maintain a shred of optimism.

Now, let’s break down why Whiteside carries a lot more value on the court than anyone seems to be giving him credit for.

Yahoo Sports recently ran a series of articles ranking the top 100 NBA players entering the 2019-20 season. To nobody’s surprise, Whiteside didn’t make cut. But 22 other centers did. Is Hassan truly in contention for being one of the bottom five worst starting centers in the league?

To find out, we ran a little anonymous statistical comparison via Twitter, comparing Whiteside’s performance to three other similar rim-running players that are all almost unanimously considered better than him by the general league media. These players include Andre Drummond (No. 45 on Yahoo), Steven Adams (No. 50) and Clint Capela.

Interestingly enough, an incredibly disproportionate 75 percent of people chose Whiteside, when context and their personal biases were removed from the equation. Judging from the stats above, it’s not all that difficult to see why. Hassan led the group in points, rebounds and blocks per 100 possessions. He also had the best Defensive Rating (in fact, he led the entire league in this statistic).

The most interesting part of all this, is that this was Whiteside’s worst season in the last five years with the Heat. In the four years prior to last season, he averaged an even more impressive 26.2 points, 21.8 rebounds, 4.6 blocks and a Defensive Rating of 98 per 100 possessions.

Last year, Whiteside led the league in rebounds and came fifth in blocks per 100 possessions. Although crashing the boards and swatting shots is his specialty, he also ranked No. 12 of all centers in points per 100 possessions. Looking at things this way, it’s hard to see how Whiteside wouldn’t be considered a top ten center in the league, much less a bottom five starting center.

Ideally, a larger role with the Portland Trail Blazers will help normalize those stats from per possessions to standard box score performances.

Disgruntled and sharing starting minutes with Bam Adebayo, Whiteside was never able to establish a rhythm and return to his previous form where he once led the league in blocks and rebounds. Now that he’s away from the toxic relationship that formed between him and Miami after he failed to live up to his $98 million deal, he can once again focus on his game instead of outside distractions.

Next. Would Joe Johnson fit on the Blazers?. dark

If the Portland Trail Blazers are getting that version of Hassan Whiteside, the league better prepare themselves for a sharp-clawed and much more dangerous competitor this time around.