Potential Trade Packages and Landing Spots for Miami Heat Star Hassan Whiteside
In-season frustration could necessitate an offseason divorce for Hassan Whiteside and the Miami Heat.
The 7-foot shot-blocker has seen his role reduced this season, due both to more small-ball play from the Heat and new options at the 5 in Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo. After receiving just 20 minutes during Saturday's overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets, Whiteside unleashed an expletive-laced rant to voice his discontent.
"Man, it's annoying," he said, per Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "Why we matching up? We got one of the best centers in the league. Why we matching up? A lot of teams don't have a good center. They're going to use their strength."
"It's bulls--t. It's bulls--t, man," he continued. "There's a lot of teams that could use a center. S--t. That's bulls--t."
But one wonders if this might be the beginning of the end. Whiteside is Miami's highest-paid player, but he's outside the team's top five in average minutes (25.6) and top 10 in fourth-quarter floor time (5.9).
Maybe that's enough reason to consider a move this summer. If it is, these are some possible landing spots for him and trade returns for the franchise.
Milwaukee Bucks Get: Hassan Whiteside
Miami Heat Get: John Henson, Matthew Dellavedova, 2019 first-round pick
The Bucks might be a big man shy of terrifying.
They have a 23-year-old, all-purpose superstar in Giannis Antetokounmpo, and they've surrounded him with long, athletic, win-now parts. Whiteside, who has both bounce and a 7'7" wingspan, might help complete the puzzle.
Milwaukee's centers have been among the Association's least productive. They rank dead last in scoring (15.4 points per game) and second-worst in rebounds (11.0), per HoopsStats.com. Whiteside has led a major stat category each of the past two seasons (blocks in 2015-16, boards last year), and he's never been a better per-36-minute supplier of points (19.9) or rebounds (16.3).
The Bucks had eyes on Whiteside around the deadline, per Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler. There's no reason to believe that interest has waned, and they'd have to love this price. Henson and Dellavedova are both overpaid, and if Milwaukee can be as good as it thinks, that pick will fall well outside the lottery. (Milwaukee could move this pick after the 2018 draft, as long as this year's protected first conveys to the Phoenix Suns.)
So, why would Miami bite? Because in a brutal market for interior-based bigs, this could be as good as it gets. The Bucks would save the Heat about $13 million over the next two seasons—assuming Whiteside picks up his $27 million player option in 2019-20—add two serviceable rotation pieces and bring in a future first to an organization in dire need of youth.
Washington Wizards Get: Hassan Whiteside
Miami Heat Get: Marcin Gortat, Jason Smith, Kelly Oubre Jr.
The Wizards should be closer to special than they are.
They have a trio of top-three picks all in their primes—John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr.—but they've struggled to get out of the East's midsection. Maybe reworking their interior would do the trick.
Gortat is on the downside of his career. He hasn't played this few minutes since 2010-11 (25.2), and his player efficiency rating has only once been lower (14.9). He also had a weird back-and-forth with Wall earlier this season, and Gortat was reportedly shopped around the deadline, per ESPN's Brian Windhorst.
Whiteside could be an above-the-rim boost for a Washington team that sits outside the top 10 in offensive (11th) and defensive (15th) efficiency. Whiteside impacts the game in ways Gortat never has—crushing lobs, controlling the glass, doing it with blocks. The Wizards are closer to competing at a high level than you might think, posting an elite plus-9.4 net rating with Wall, Beal and Porter playing together.
And this has win-win potential given the upside for Miami.
There's an addition-by-subtraction element to any Whiteside deal, as his exit creates more possibilities for small-ball runs with Olynyk and/or James Johnson, plus leaves the door ajar in case Adebayo can force his way through. Oubre would also be a massive get, as he's a rising three-and-D wing with effortless athleticism and the versatility to fit a position-less scheme.
Gortat would be playable through the remainder of his salary, which expires after next season. Smith holds a $5.4 million player option for 2018-19 but isn't signed beyond that. There's a potentially substantial amount of savings here, even with Oubre in need of a new deal between now and 2019-20.
Dallas Mavericks Get: Hassan Whiteside
Miami Heat Get: Wesley Matthews, 2019 first-round pick (lottery protected), 2023 second-round pick
From the DeAndre Jordan signing-that-wasn't to the failed Nerlens Noel experiment, the Mavericks have consistently come up short in their post-Tyson Chandler center pursuits. Adding Whiteside not only corrects that, but it gives Dallas one last shot at relevance during Dirk Nowitzki's career, assuming both Dennis Smith Jr. and this summer's first-rounder can hit the ground running next season.
There's admittedly some risk of a Whiteside-Rick Carlisle collision—remember how the Rajon Rondo gamble went?—but Dallas might see it as one worth taking. The Mavs haven't fielded a top-10 defense since 2010-11, and they've been a bottom-third defense in boards (21st) and blocks (29th) this year.
As for the Heat's side of this transaction, the haul would fit with at least one scout's view of Whiteside's trade value.
"I could see a first-rounder and a decent player—a rotational guy—but not a lottery pick and a decent player," a scout told Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald in January.
The Heat have already traded away their firsts in 2018 and 2021, so adding one would be enticing—even if it won't fall in the lottery. And the 2023 second would be the same selection Miami traded away in last summer's Josh McRoberts-A.J. Hammons swap.
Matthews only has an $18.6 million player option owed to him beyond this season. Even if it's bloated, it's still a smaller commitment than Whiteside's, plus it expires a year earlier. Matthews remains capable of burying threes (38.1 percent) and defending multiple positions, so he'd find his way into Miami's crowded wing rotation.
Phoenix Suns Get: Hassan Whiteside
Miami Heat Get: Tyson Chandler, Jared Dudley, Marquese Chriss, 2018 second-round pick (via Toronto)
The Suns haven't been a playoff participant since 2010, but they have chased win-now moves throughout their drought.
They tried building a three-headed monster at point guard with Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas. In 2014, they chased both LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. One year later, they inked Tyson Chandler and tried using that signing to persuade LaMarcus Aldridge to come onboard.
They might feel their time is close, given the growth of Devin Booker, TJ Warren and Josh Jackson. And if they do, they could envision Whiteside as the missing piece. They desperately need an anchor for their 30th-ranked defense, and they'd help their perimeter players by adding a consistent lob threat, since they've seen the fourth-fewest possessions finished by a pick-and-roll screener.
The Heat would have financial reasons to consider this deal. While Whiteside can collect $52.5 million over the next two seasons, Chandler and Dudley are only on the books at $23.1 million for one more year. Chriss has a couple of campaigns left on his rookie deal, the type of contract Miami needs more of. And if it hits on that late second-rounder, that'd be another.
The basketball side is a little more blurry, and it hinges on the organization's view of Chriss (or, in a different iteration, Dragan Bender). If the Heat see him as a rim-running, three-point shooting big, they might treat him like the lottery pick they don't have. They could also squeeze worthwhile minutes out of Chandler and/or Dudley or bench them without the distractions of sidelining a max-money player like Whiteside.
Cleveland Cavaliers Get: Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow
Miami Heat Get: Kevin Love, 2021 second-round pick
Kevin Love never strays too far from the rumor mill. Even when ESPN's Zach Lowe reported in September Cleveland had "no plans" to move the All-Star, he added the possibility had been contemplated "off and on almost since [the 2015 Finals.]"
In January, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post opined that moving Love "makes sense."
"Love—for all his gifts—isn't going to be the backbone of a strong defense," Bontemps wrote.
Cleveland sits an unsettling 28th in defensive efficiency. Miami, meanwhile, is seventh and has been 1.4 points stingier per 100 possessions with Whiteside than without him. The Cavs' nightly rejection tally as a team (3.9) isn't that much higher than Whiteside's per-48-minute average (3.2). He'd clog their offensive spacing a bit, but he'd also be an intriguing pick-and-roll partner for LeBron James.
To be clear, two things need to happen for the Cavs to target this type of deal.
First, they need James to sign off on at least one more season in Northeast Ohio. If he's out, the franchise should be scrambling for future assets. Second, their defense must prove their undoing in the playoffs. Even then, Love probably needs to struggle on the biggest stage to become available.
But if he is, Miami should pounce. It'd be tough to watch Winslow continue his development elsewhere, but the arrival of a proven star would be worth it. A frontcourt foursome of Love, Olynyk, Adebayo and James Johnson should cover all bases, and the wider driving lanes would be devoured by Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters and the rest of the Heat's slashers.
This feels like a long shot even for speculation, but it's possible to see incentives to act on both sides.