Hassan Whiteside’s Contract is the Elephant in the Room


This has been quite the offseason for the Miami Heat. After re-signing it’s backcourt and adding several role players, it seems Pat Riley and company have settled on a 15-man roster that is talented as any in the East at the top and deep all the way through. Of course, the Heat wouldn’t be facing such high expectations if they didn’t have Hassan Whiteside–last season’s breakout star–in the fold as the team’s rim protector and pick-and-roll finisher.

Whiteside’s historic–and it was historic–season may not be duplicated when it comes to shear numbers. The Heat won’t be as desperate for offense, or defense for that matter, but he should have similar efficiency numbers and impact. After all, he’s got those giant tarantula hands that catch anything and everything, and he’s profoundly capable of finishing at the rim, blocking shots and keeping them inbounds. The young center is arguably the best deal in the NBA, as he’s due to make a hair $980,000 this upcoming season.

But that won’t last long. Whiteside’s deal expires after this season and the Heat will need to make re-signing him a top priority or risk losing him in free agency to team’s with tons of cap space. Since he signed to just a two-year deal, the Heat won’t have Bird Rights and will have to sign him with cap room. As it stands, the Heat should have enough, even if Whiteside chases a maximum deal.

As it stands, the Heat have just four players under guaranteed contracts in 2016-17: Chris Bosh, Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow and Josh McRoberts. We can assume Miami and Dwyane Wade will come to another agreement after this season as well. So pencil in four guys at about $45 million before Wade re-signs. That gives the Heat about another $45 million for Whiteside, Wade, and nine other players (though they could go over the cap to sign Wade, since they carry his Bird Rights).

On it’s face, it shouldn’t be too difficult to re-sign Whiteside and Wade and fill out the roster with quality players. But we know Riley’s looking bigger than that. That he’s hoping to be in the running for Kevin Durant or other big name players set to hit free agency next summer.

It stands to reason that the Heat would make getting a meeting with Durant its top priority. So what if another team swoops in–and team that knows it cannot land KD–and makes Whiteside its Moby Dick, offers him oodles of money and tries to steal him out from under Riley and the Heat?

You know a team will make that play. It’s up to Riley to communicate with Whiteside, letting him know that the Heat will take care of him and to hold tight a la how the Spurs handles Kawhi Leonard so they could sign LaMarcus Aldridge. It will be an interesting balancing act that Riley and the Heat will have to master, or else they could face their master plan blowing up in their face.

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