What’s next for Miami Heat big man Hassan Whiteside?

WASHINGTON, DC -  APRIL 8: Hassan Whiteside
WASHINGTON, DC -  APRIL 8: Hassan Whiteside /

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside has undergone quite a transformation since first coming into the league, but what’s next for the big man?

Let’s take a walk down Miami Heat big man Hassan Whiteside’s memory lane.

The year was 2010 and the young buck had just been drafted No. 33 overall, by the Sacramento Kings. It seemed all of the center’s dreams were about to come true, having made it into the league after playing just one year of college ball at Marshall University.

But it turned out things weren’t so simple for the North Carolina-native. Because instead of launching a lucrative NBA basketball career, Whiteside was assigned to then-called Developmental League. Which is where he would spend the majority of his time until 2013, when he decided to try his hand at playing overseas.

First, the 7-footer headed to China, joining the Sichuan Blue Whales, a NBL team that took the title that year. He then joined Al Mouttahed Tripoli, a Lebanese Basketball League ball club, that he spent six months with. Ultimately returning to China, to play 17 games for Jiangsu Tongxi.

Shortly thereafter, in September of 2014, Whiteside got a second shot at the pro-career he always wanted, via the Memphis Grizzlies. But unfortunately, things once again didn’t go as planned, and he spent the next two months back in the D-League.

However, in November, the Heat took notice of the big man. And the rest is history.

Entering his fourth year in Miami, the once forgotten Whiteside now headlines the organization. Coming off of averaging a career-best 17.0 points, 14.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks a game in 32.6 minutes of play, the 28-year-old has developed tremendously since arriving in South Beach. Between averaging 11.8, 10.0 and 2.6 in 2014-15, to losing the bad attitude and temper, the center deserves high praise for his turnaround.

Praise that is finally not just coming from around the league, but his own teammates too.

When asked what changed within Whiteside from years prior, Goran Dragic explained:

"“Everything. He was all in. He had those stitches [in the webbing of his hand] but he said, ‘I’m not going to let my team down.’ He was playing through some tough injuries.”"

Tyler Johnson also recognized the growth.

"“[He is] sacrificing for the betterment of the team. Some of his numbers went down, but the effect he was having went way up.”"

In other words, he now plays unselfish basketball. Something that head coach Erik Spoelstra stresses day-in and day-out.

"“He really learned how to impact winning. It had nothing to do with his stats, even though he’s going to do that no matter what. But it really became about learning how to make winning plays, learning how to make his teammates better and caring more about the guys in the locker room than he cared about himself… He can now lead in a different way because he has the respect of the locker room.”"

Which based off of his behavior early on as a member of the Heat, probably wasn’t always the case.

(Why yes, these two are now teammates. And seemingly getting along swimmingly, to boot.)

So what’s next for Whiteside?

Well, for one, even better numbers. While he had a fantastic 2016-17 run, fans should definitely expect their center to continue improving on both ends of the floor. Even if he won’t always have a note-worthy stat-line. Whiteside is more than just a double-double machine now. He contributes in ways that can’t necessarily be reflected in a boxscore.

Heat Nation can also count on No. 21 to step up further as a leader. He did a great job last year of taking younger guys under his wing, but there will undoubtedly be even more of that happening with rookie Bam Adebayo.

Next: Should Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters have had ankle surgery?

2017-18 may mark Hassan Whiteside’s fourth year with the Miami Heat, but he hasn’t yet reached his ceiling.