Hassan Whiteside Rightfully Embracing New Role off Bench

Hassan Whiteside Rightfully Embracing New Role off Bench

Hassan Whiteside Miami Heat

In the two games since Hassan Whiteside has returned from a one-game suspension, the Miami Heat center has averaged a staggering 22.0 points, 20.5 rebounds and 4.0 blocks in wins over a couple of playoff-caliber teams.

Whether the sample size is small or not, the more impressive fact is that Whiteside has done this off the Heat bench. Head coach Erik Spoelstra has recently made a ponderous decision in continuing to bring the 7-footer with the second unit but the results have worked out immensely — for both parties.

With Whiteside not starting the game with speedster Goran Dragic, the 6’3″ point guard has been able to play at a much faster pace. Dragic has unleashed the inner dragon in him and has been on a roll lately — putting up an average of 21.6 points, 7.6 assists and 6.6 rebounds — in the three games since the All-Star break.

The increased pace has allowed Dragic to control the game from the get-go, putting the pressure on the defense and getting easy buckets in transition. The former All-NBA Third Team guard was not able to do this with Whiteside inserted into the starting lineup; instead, the center would frequently clog up the lane and would often have a difficult time matching up with the quick tempo.

The Heat are also benefiting from this because they get a much larger burst off the bench. The Marshall University product gives the Heat bench a different defensive identity that doesn’t require such a fast-style of play. Both teams Miami has faced over the last few days just couldn’t parallel defensively with Whiteside on the floor.

The center, who averages the fourth most rebounds in the league (11.3), headlined Miami’s 67-45 rebounding advantage Saturday against the Washington Wizards and 66-45 rebounding advantage Monday versus the Indiana Pacers. With a faster pace to start the game and different dimension off the bench, the Heat have enjoyed a three-game winning streak and successful system under Whiteside’s new role.

The move to the bench not only helps the Heat win more games but helps Whiteside bring out more in himself. While the relocation may not look appealing, the redistribution does, when looked at more closely. When Whiteside starts this season he averages 12.4 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.9 blocks in 28.9 minutes of play, whereas when he comes off the bench he averages 13.2 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.7 blocks in less time (23.8 minutes). Half of the center’s triple-doubles with blocks (2) have come off the bench.

When asked about the faster pace and new role off the bench, Whiteside said after Monday morning’s shootaround:

“I like it. It [doesn’t] bother me at all, that just means more points, more blocks, more rebounds for everybody. When there’s more points, there’s more excitement, more cheers, more wins.”

The league’s leading shot blocker (3.89) is right. Coming into the game with the second unit gives the big man more touches, which he doesn’t get much of with Dragic and Dwyane Wade in the starting lineup. While the absence of Chris Bosh may have something to do with it, the 32 combined shots the 26-year-old took between Saturday and Monday were the most he’s ever taken in two consecutive games his entire career.

Come summer time, the unrestricted free agent will have a plethora of eyes on him — not only for the monster statistics — but for the compliance in coming off the bench. Not many players, who have put up historical numbers, are happy when summoned to the bench, especially during a contract year.

Whiteside has a chance here to commit to his new role, put the disciplinary problems behind him and give the Heat everything he has for the next couple of months. That may not only get the questionable star on other teams’ radars in July but the Heat’s as well. If Whiteside can continue to comply while giving it his all, the Heat will be far more willing to pay their prized possession the big bucks.
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