On The Next Step In Hassan Whiteside’s Development


Last night during the Miami Heat’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Heat’s broadcast crew made a comment on how the team wasn’t getting the ball to Hassan Whiteside in the post enough.

Something about how the team didn’t take advantage of a mismatch when Whiteside was being guarded by rookie point guard Dennis Schroder in the paint.

They were right, Whiteside had only eight shot attempts in the game, only one of which came on a play ran for him (usually the team runs a lot more pick-and-rolls for him, so this game was a bit of a novelty).

That comment likely prompted this exchange from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Ira Winderman in his daily mail bag column.

"Q: How come the Heat don’t run their offense through Hassan Whiteside? I know it is a lot for a rookie. But if teams double-team him, then Luol Deng is open, Goran Dragic is open, Dwyane Wade is open, Henry Walker is open, someone is open! — S.R.A: First, he is not a rookie, actually in his third NBA season. Beyond that, he has not yet reached the level with his post play where he has required a double-team. He tends to either go directly to the basket on the catch, often for alley-oops, or quick hooks. There is not much there at the moment from a back-to-the basket standpoint. And yet, with all of that said, perhaps it’s time to at least greater consideration to getting the ball to Whiteside inside. … when nothing it dropping from outside, it would be nice to at least have an inside option. … I also think we’re past the Whiteside-as-novelty stage. He’s for real, and that means keeping better track of getting him back in games, and going to him when he’s in games."

In a roundabout way, Winderman says that Whiteside isn’t quite the guy you throw the ball in to every possession and revolve the offense around, but he’s often times the team’s best option.

That’s true, but it’s not an immature post game that prevents the Heat from getting the ball to him more. He’s developed enough post moves–a hook shot and a spin move to both sides–that he can survive in a back-to-the-basket game.

However, the Heat still can’t build an offense around it.

What the questioner is getting to isn’t more scoring from Whiteside, but his gravity creating open looks for his teammates.

For those open players to turn into easy points, though, Whiteside needs to pass them the ball. Despite his rocket speed development, Whiteside is still a below average passer out of the post.

Of all big men who have played in at least 30 games this season, Whiteside has the lowest assist percentage in the league, assisting on just 1.2 percent of his team’s field goals while he’s on the floor, per basketball-reference.com.

Whiteside will often get doubled right away when he gets the ball in the paint, whether on the pick-and-roll or a post-up situation. His reaction is to try to use his size to dominate however many bodies are looking up at him and throw a shot up. Sometimes it still leads to points, but at the opportunity cost of an open jumper from one of his teammates.

Look how open Haslem, Deng and Dragic are. When Whiteside gets the ball, the possession typically ends with him putting the ball up. It still goes in more than 63 percent of the time, but the next step in his development is passing up below average opportunities in the paint for above average looks for his teammates.

It’s asking a lot from a man his size to have the balance to pass that ball but, like shooting, balance is a big part of passing. It’s something Whiteside continues to get better at in general, and it should translate to more passing.

In the modern NBA, you want to keep that ball moving. Maybe he can’t get it to shooters like Dragic or Deng, but finding Haslem in the corner who can then swing the ball would have very likely garnered an open 3-pointer.

For now, Miami’s offense can revolve around pick-and-rolls between Whiteside and either Wade or Dragic and it should. However , those two guards are the only ones who have been able to get the ball to Whiteside consistently. It’s as much them as it is him.

For the Heat to be able to hand the offense to Whiteside–for him to graduate from the Birdman/DeAndre Jordan type and become more of a Marc Gasol/Joakim Noah/DeMarcus Cousins type–he’ll need to improve his passing skills. Maybe he won’t ever reach that level, but that’s the answer to your question, S.R.

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