The Miami Heat just concluded their season on a low note with a 4-1 first-round playoffs series loss to the up-and-coming Philadelphia 76ers. The series was a revelation of sorts, as coach Erik Spoelstra hardly used center Hassan Whiteside to counter Philly’s Joel Embiid.
That pretty much sums up how the Heat and Spoelstra have probably moved on from Whiteside who is not the easiest player to coach.
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald says that Miami is “expected to explore a Whiteside trade” in the offseason. The 6-foot-11 center has two years remaining on his contract but the Heat may find it difficult to find a trade partner that’s commensurate with his perceived value.
In a recent response to a mailbag question prior to Game 5 of the first-round match-up between the Heat and the Sixers, Tom D’Angelo of the Palm Beach Post explained how Whiteside’s trade value has declined.
“Whiteside’s trade value is at an all-time low. The Heat’s highest paid player is due $52.5 million the next two years, the final two of the $98 million deal he signed two summers ago. And while that value declined this season it has nosedived during the playoffs as he is averaging just 6.0 points and 6.3 rebounds in the first four games against the Sixers.
But that does not mean Pat Riley will give up on trying to move the 7-footer. Whether it takes adding a sweetener to the deal – perhaps Josh Richardson or Justise Winslow – or taking back another team’s disgruntled high-priced player or even a bad contract, the Heat will do all it can to trade Whiteside. And it might even mean just packaging him for the purpose freeing up some cap space. But Miami would have to trade more than just Whiteside to gain any significant money seeing it enters the summer about $17 million over the cap.
As for Whiteside and coach Erik Spoelstra co-existing, you make a great point. My feeling is the last thing Spoelstra wants is another year of dealing with Whiteside’s inconsistent play and his immaturity especially Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk capable of filling that hole, more reason for Riley to do everything he can to move on from Whiteside.”
Needless to say, Whiteside is gone next season, and though his trade value has become less than ideal, there are teams out there who would like to take a shot at the enigmatic center.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe wondered if the Heat would consider a sign-and-trade deal for DeMarcus Cousins but the New Orleans Pelicans are likely to decline.
“Hassan Whiteside’s trade value has fallen so low, the Pelicans may not be interested in any sort of swap. Whether Miami would be, even with Cousins’ injury, is a fascinating question.”
The Pelicans would probably agree to such a trade if Cousins decides not to stay in New Orleans so that they can at least get some compensation for losing the other half of their Twin Towers frontcourt. Prior to his season-ending injury, the 6-foot-11 center was playing well with fellow superstar Anthony Davis. If they can add Josh Richardson into the package for Cousins, then perhaps the Pelicans might give them a second look.
But even if they don’t, there are a few trade scenarios the Heat may want to explore for the talented but mercurial big man. Whiteside has to shape up if he wants to prolong his NBA career. A change of scenery might help in the attitude adjustment that he needs to reach his potential.
*Note: The trades were simulated using ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine.
10. Orlando Magic
Additional Asset from the Heat: Justise Winslow
Heat receive: Jonathon Simmons, Bismack Biyombo, first-round draft pick
The Orlando Magic are stockpiling young players (again) with emerging power forward Aaron Gordon as one of the building blocks of their rebuilding efforts. Depending on which pick the Magic eventually end up with in the lottery and which player they draft, getting Whiteside from the Heat could help them move further along in their bid to become a playoff contender.
The Heat get a shot-blocking center with Bismack Biyombo and a solid small forward with Jonathon Simmons. That first-round pick should be something like a late first-rounder in 2022 — or something — as the Magic are unlikely to give up a lottery pick for Whiteside.
A power forward-center combo of Gordon and Whiteside would be one of the better frontcourt tandems in the league with a chance to become even better in time. Gordon is on the verge of averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds this season once he puts his physical tools and natural talents together.
9. Atlanta Hawks
Additional Asset from the Heat: None.
Heat receive: Kent Bazemore, Malcolm Delaney, DeAndre Bembry
The Atlanta Hawks are in rebuilding mode with a top draft pick coming up in June. They can get even better next year with Whiteside pairing with whoever they get from the draft. The Hawks have to get him with a mentor who will not only help him develop his physical tools but also teach him the disciplines required to become one of the team’s cornerstones.
The Heat get a solid shooting guard who has been improving every year.
He’ll learn from Wade on how to be an even better player. You can almost guarantee that he’ll average at least 15 points a game next season. Malcolm Delaney is a solid back-up point guard while DeAndre Bembry will fight for minutes in the Heat’s crowded shooting guard/small forward positions.
8. Minnesota Timberwolves
Additional Asset from the Heat: Josh Richardson
Heat receive: Jeff Teague, Justin Patton, first-round draft pick
Whiteside will benefit greatly by for Tom Thibodeau and the Minnesota Timberwolves. The team has a good mix of veterans and young players who are all hungry for more success after making the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. If Whiteside accepts the role, the Timberwolves could make a push for one of the top four seeds in the tough Western Conference.
Richardson is a promising small forward who could turn into something special. He will learn a lot from Jimmy Butler who, in just his first season in Minnesota, became the heart and soul of the team.
Jeff Teague is still a capable point guard and one that the Miami Heat can play alongside Goran Dragic during stretches of a ballgame. It wasn’t too long ago that Teague spearheaded the top team in the East when he was playing for the Atlanta Hawks in the 2014-15 season. He and Dragic could play off of one another, alternating playmaking duties with whoever has the hot-hand switching to shooting guard.
7. San Antonio Spurs
Additional Asset from the Heat: None
Heat receive: Pau Gasol, Patty Mills
Gregg Popovich is the key here. If he says he can work with Whiteside, and that the two of them can work together, then this is a win for the San Antonio Spurs.
Pop will be a great mentor to Whiteside, who needs a coach like him that he will listen to. Pairing him with LaMarcus Aldridge will be huge for the Spurs who would also get younger with the addition of the 28-year old center.
Paul Gasol and Patty Mills bring lots of experience to the table for the Heat. They become older, but they at least have players that they can put on the floor. Expect Miami to be a better team, though not necessarily by much. At least Spo won’t have as much of a headache on the bench next season.
6. Washington Wizards
Additional Asset from the Heat: None
Heat receive: Kelly Oubre Jr., Marcin Gortat, Jason Smith
Marcin Gortat isn’t getting younger or better so the Washington Wizards are not only hoping to get a more athletic player with Whiteside, they also subtract a few years from their center position’s age.
Whiteside could benefit from the presence of John Wall and Bradley Beal around him. He isn’t expected to score as much, but will have plenty of opportunity to score on putbacks and assists from Wall.
The Heat don’t necessarily get better, but they do get deeper. Not to mention, Gortat will be an upgrade for the Heat this season, as Spoelstra will know what to expect from his center night in and night out. Oubre and Smith will get the chance to play and prove that they deserve to play ahead of the mainstay frontcourt players.
5. Memphis Grizzlies
Additional Asset from the Heat: 1st round draft pick
Heat receive: Marc Gasol
This is the only trade in which a straight up swap of players and big men appears on this list. Ok, there’s the matter of an additional first-round pick (lottery protected, of course) that Miami will have to give up. The Heat are trading for stability while the Memphis Grizzlies are looking for youth and potential. Both teams benefit from this swap if the parties involved deliver more than expected.
Gasol’s game has been solid the past few years. Once an All-Star, he is now just one of the best centers in the game. He is the face of the franchise for the Grizzlies who could still make the playoffs with him and a healthy Mike Conley Jr. The problem with that is mediocrity. The Grizzlies are stuck in the middle as playoff contenders at best but nothing more.
If they want a fresh start, they could give up on both Conley (another trade to a different team) and Gasol to start rebuilding.
Whiteside will be a project, but having a team that he has the responsibility to carry could inspire him to play better and more responsibly. It’s a risky move for the Grit and Grind, but one that’s worth looking into.
The Heat will have a strong veteran core of Wade, Dragic, Richardson and Gasol. That’s a playoff contender that could go deep in the playoffs in the weaker Eastern Conference. Gasol might become an All-Star again once he moves to the East.
4. Milwaukee Bucks
Additional Asset from the Heat: first-round draft pick
Heat receive: Jabari Parker
Jabari Parker doesn’t seem to be interested in staying with the Milwaukee Bucks next season. A sign-and-trade may be the best route for the Bucks to land Whiteside who can bolster the already very solid frontcourt tandem of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.
With Whiteside on the team, the Bucks are definitely going to win a first-round playoff match-up, finally.
Matt John of Basketball Insiders wrote a month ago two reasons as to why the Bucks need to grab this opportunity.
“1. The Bucks really need an upgrade at center. John Henson has averaged merely okay numbers as a starter (8.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks), Thon Maker has disappointed, and Tyler Zeller is really suited for the second unit. Whiteside would be an immediate upgrade and would be the team’s first high quality two-way big since Larry Sanders.
2. The Bucks are kind of low on options. The team hasn’t made much progress since Giannis Antetokounmpo’s second season in the league, and don’t have an avenue to get much better. They don’t have the cap room to pay a star a max contract, and they have a tough decision with Jabari Parker’s restricted free agency looming this summer. Whiteside’s not a franchise-changing player, but he’s a step in the right direction. Given that Milwaukee currently ranks no. 19 in defensive rating (107.2 points per 100 possessions) and allow 106.7 points a game (no. 16 in the league), Whiteside would be an immense help.”
For the Heat, they receive a young player who has a chance to be a fringe All-Star. Though he wasn’t the superstar that the Bucks (and the rest of the league) expected him to be, Parker has time to show that he is at least as good or better than Andrew Wiggins, the player selected ahead of him in the 2014 draft.
Seeing him with Richardson on the floor together will give Heat fans hope for the future.
3. Dallas Mavericks
Additional Asset from the Heat: Josh Richardson
Heat receive: Harrison Barnes, Nerlens Noel
The Dallas Mavericks have a good mix of veterans and young players, but they’re not getting anywhere in the standings. With Dirk Nowitzki stating that he’s returning next season, he’ll be rejuvenated with the influx of youth. Though they have one of the top picks in the draft, the Mavericks will likely not win much but will improve by a few games depending on which player they get.
For the Mavericks, not only do they get a younger player in Richardson to replace Harrison Barnes, they also get a center with the potential to grow under the wings of Nowitzki, one of the best players in league history.
A trade for Barnes and Nerlens Noel will improve the Heat’s chances of making it to further into the playoffs. They’ll be one of the top 4 or 5 teams in the East if they acquire these two.
2. Denver Nuggets
Additional Asset from the Heat: Tyler Johnson
Heat receive: Paul Millsap
The Nuggets may have overpaid for Millsap when they signed him as a free agent last summer. Millsap is a 4-time All-Star, but the emergence of Nikola Jokic made him somewhat expendable. He’s a very pricey player for someone who only produces 14.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game and was sidelined for much of the season with an injury. He needs a change in scenery which could help revitalize his career.
Going back to the East with the Heat should bring him closer to his All-Star form. The Heat could use an inside presence who can complement their outside shooting and Millsap is a handful when he’s on his game.
For the Denver Nuggets, Whiteside will help focus their game plan on the triple-double talents of Nikola Jokic. The 23-year old Serbian can move to power forward with Whiteside taking over the center position. They also receive Tyler Johnson who can come off the bench to back up Will Barton and Gary Harris.
1. L.A. Clippers
Additional Asset from the Heat: Josh Richardson
Heat receive: DeAndre Jordan
If DeAndre Jordan decides not to opt out of his contract, the Heat can snatch him up in exchange for Whiteside and Richardson. Whiteside and Richardson can make up for the loss of one of the best centers in the league with both players having huge upsides.
L.A. Clippers coach Doc Rivers was able to manage Rajon Rondo in Boston and he could do wonders for a player with Whiteside’s temperament. If coach and player get along well, this could even be a lopsided deal in the Clippers favor.
Richardson is a legit talent and is bound for a career-year next season. He’s the type of talent who could grow into a bigger role for the Clippers as they seek to rebuild the franchise from the Blake Griffin and Chris Paul era. He’s a two-way player who will be an asset in the Clips’ future plans.
The Heat can go deeper in the playoffs next season with Jordan’s presence. If they had him in the lineup versus the Sixers in the playoffs, he could have made a huge difference guarding Joel Embiid.
Having Jordan around might also entice Dwyane Wade to come back for at least one more season. A starting lineup that features Goran Dragic, Wade (yes, I expect him to start next season), Winslow, Kelly Olynyk and Jordan looks pretty good on paper.