Shoot for It: With Alex Lee ’16 and John Beneville ’16

by John Beneville and Alex Lee | 1/12/16 6:30pm

What’s happening, Dartmouth! Winter term 2016 is upon us and today we shall be discussing the Miami Heat and their looming decision regarding Hassan Whiteside. The past four years have been incredibly volatile for the Miami Heat. The 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 seasons brought back to back championships. The 2013-2014 season brought a loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the finals and the departure of Lebron James during the off-season. The 2014-2015 season brought the emergence of center Whiteside, a prominent midseason trade for point guard Goran Dragic and a near life-ending blood clot injury for superstar Chris Bosh. The Heat narrowly missed out on the playoffs last season but instead were able to secure the tenth pick in the NBA draft, by which they fortuitously selected the coveted NCAA 2015 Champion small forward Justise Winslow. This season, the Heat have started off to a respectable 22-16 and fifth in the better-than-anticipated Eastern Conference. Whiteside was drafted by the Kings during the 2010-2011 season but was cut several times and spent some time playing in China before being discovered by the Heat. Whiteside has blossomed into one of the best centers in the league, averaging 12.1 PPG, 11.1 RPG and an astounding league-best 3.8 BPG (Anthony Davis is second with 2.6 BPG). D-League to max-contract is an inspiring story but a pivotal decision comes for the Miami Heat in the next month when the trade deadline hits. This year, Whiteside is making just under a million dollars but as a restricted free agent this summer will likely fetch a maximum contract. There have been some trade rumblings with names like Dwight Howard, Demarcus Cousins and Ryan Anderson, all of which Pat Riley has denied. If the Heat choose not to trade Whiteside at the deadline, they could risk letting him walk for nothing. This week, we debate whether or not the Heat should trade Whiteside. Alex’s Take: Bring me back to those Miami Heat glory days when it was assumed that they would make it to the finals. Then Lebron left. So much can change in a single NBA season. But last year’s mess brought one golden goose, and his name was Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside is an incredible basketball talent. Anyone who watches the way he effortlessly runs the court and swats balls with perfect timing at the rim will appreciate how he has the potential to become one of the best players in the league. I personally love watching his ferocious dunks through several defenders and no sweat rebounding. Heck, even esteemed Celtic Bob Cousy compared Whiteside to Hall of Famer Bill Russell, the only such comparison he has made in 40 years. However, Whiteside does not come without his problems. Apart from being inconsistent on the floor, Whiteside may challenge Cousins for the “worst temperament in the NBA” award. I remember one particular incident when he full out tackled Alex Len of the Phoenix Suns, causing both players to be ejected.As a basketball player, Hassan is still incredibly raw, but he is no longer a young buck — in fact he turns 27 in June. Furthermore, the financial implications are a huge risk for the Heat. Whiteside will undoubtedly fetch a max contract. Even Enes “No Defense” Kanter of the Oklahoma City Thunder received the max; serviceable centers are simply a rare commodity in the League today. In order to free up the cap space, the Heat would need Dwyane Wade to (yet again) accept some sort of pay cut, which at this point seems very unlikely. If Pat Riley and the Heat organization allow Whiteside to finish the season, even if they were able to free up cap-space for him, Whiteside may opt to walk and in return the Heat would receive nothing. As much as it pains me to say this, the Heat should trade Whiteside. It makes more sense for the organization to lock something up rather than gamble on receiving nothing. John’s Take: The Heat have been a pleasant surprise this season, and Alex is right to point to Whiteside as one of the big reasons behind their recent success. For the most part I have to admit that I agree with Alex’s reasoning. Allowing Whiteside to enter free agency would be a tough financial decision. The Los Angeles Lakers allowed Dwight Howard to do the same thing a few years ago, strongly believing they could convince him to stay in L.A., but Dwight snubbed the franchise and headed off to Houston. Dwight, if you’re reading this, we still don’t miss you in L.A. At the same time however, the fact that we are talking about this topic worries me. It seems now that every time a player begins to emerge and develop they begin to believe that they deserve a max contract. Alex and I once wrote a piece on Tristan Thompson, the excellent rebounder and defender who eventually re-signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers. But Thompson milked the Cavs and the rest of the League for money that he didn’t really deserve, and he’s inspired other players to do the same. Now we cannot be sure what Whiteside is thinking, but if he has any financial sense at all he will probably be looking to pull a Tristan Thompson. Whiteside is a good player, but there are many better players around the league at his position, which, in light of small ball’s recent success, is becoming less and less relevant. The game is played differently today than it was 20 years ago. And while Bob Cousy’s comparison of Whiteside to Russell is nice, it’s a) probably not correct and b) probably meaningless in today’s NBA. Whiteside is a nice success story, but there’s a reason the dude was playing in China until recently. There are limitations to his game and his attitude is a constant concern. Additionally, for anyone that has been following DJ Khaled’s Snapchat story, Whiteside has been frequently featured at his pool which I fear means that Whiteside has been receiving excessive amounts of Ciroc Apple Vodka and fatty midnight snacks from Chef Dee’s kitchen. I’m sure the allure of free poolside “massages” at Khaled’s crib is awfully strong, but I see Whiteside’s lifestyle as something that could endanger his long term success in the NBA. My take: trade Whiteside and consider yourself lucky to be able to sell him so high.