Publish date:

7 MIAMI HEAT

Author:

A MODEST PROPOSAL ...

SIT HASSAN WHITESIDE

If you watched the first round of the playoffs, you may remember Hassan Whiteside largely flailing against his social media rival Joel Embiid during the Heat's loss to the 76ers. Even more likely, you don't remember anything Whiteside did, because he was a complete nonfactor.

During camp, the Heat tried to pump up Whiteside, their highest-paid player. He's in better health! His relationship with the coaching staff has improved! He's practicing corner threes! Wait, he's practicing corner threes?

There's room for a center like Whiteside to succeed in the modern NBA. Just look at Clint Capela, Houston's rim-runner extraordinaire. The problem is Whiteside always wants to do more, like post ups that result in line drives at the rim, or jump shots that make Erik Spoelstra twitch.

The Heat can't give up on Whiteside—his salary is too high, and they need to build his trade value. But Miami has two centers, Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk, in the wings. Olynyk led the team in plus-minus, and Adebayo is the future, a big who can rattle the rim and defend any position. Whiteside is too often a head case who hasn't held up his end of the bargain on the court, no matter what the payroll says.

STARTING 5

COACH ERIK SPOELSTRA

2017--18 RECORD: 44--38

PREDICTION: Lose 1st round

PG GORAN DRAGIČ (45 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])

17.3

PPG

SG DWYANE WADE

11.4

PPG

SF JOSH RICHARDSON (71 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])

37.8

3FG%

PF JAMES JOHNSON (86 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])

50.3

FG%

14.0

PPG

C HASSAN WHITESIDE

Whiteside's scoring dipped to an abysmal 5.2 ppg in the playoffs, when matchup issues with the Sixers limited him to 15.4 minutes per game.

BENCH

SG DION WAITERS

SG TYLER JOHNSON

C KELLY OLYNYK (93 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])

(#) SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING

ENEMY LINES

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP MIAMI

THEY'RE WELL-COACHED, have a lot of tough-minded guys who buy in, and they'll always be a tough out, but they still need a star to get into the next tier of teams.... The biggest question is HASSAN WHITESIDE. He hasn't shown the same hunger since he signed his big deal [two years ago]. Now he's 29 and getting paid like a big-time player, but he doesn't consistently make a winning impact even when he puts up numbers.... GORAN DRAGIČ can play in any system, on or off the ball. He's a very good starter, but they need someone else on his level from an offensive standpoint.... JUSTISE WINSLOW kind of is who he is. Look at PJ Tucker, a guy who defends multiple positions with toughness—that's Winslow's ceiling. He has the body to guard four positions and has started to make threes at a decent clip. He'll play a lot of power forward so they can get all their guards minutes.... BAM ADEBAYO showed last year that there's not that much separation between him and Whiteside. He gives you consistent effort, has the agility to cover ground and block shots, has some ball skills and shooting range—a no-nonsense game that fits the DNA of their team.... DION WAITERS coming back complicates things in terms of minutes, but they find a way to get guys in there. He gives them an element of offensive creation that other guys don't have.... JAMES JOHNSON is supervaluable now as an athletic forward who can put it on the floor and make plays defensively. He bought into their fitness emphasis and it's helped him maybe more than anybody on the team.