With the ability to alter a game both offensively and defensively, the 7’0 foot big man is the Lakers most important free agent target this off-season.
To go along with the free agent ratings we did here we are also going to do minor exposé’s on the top 5 choices based of their statistical value on our spreadsheet. These ratings were based off of fit, likelihood, and talent on a 1-10 scale. All were totaled together to come up with each individual free agents rating. Based off those ratings the Lakers Pulse team rated Hassan Whiteside an 8.17. Personally I rated Whiteside as an 8 for talent and 8 for likelihood and a 9 for fit. In this article I will break down a little bit of the history Whiteside already has with the Lakers, and why I rated him the way that I did.
To start this off it’s important to remember that the 7’0 foot center out of Marshall University was once in the clutches of the Lakers. Just before the 2014-2015 preseason started Whiteside worked out for the Lakers brass and Byron Scott. At the time, since it was Byron’s first year as coach, player personnel was determined by the former Laker coach at the time. Instead of going with the 7 footer, Scott chose Wayne Ellington. Whiteside would go onto join the Heat organization and the rest, as they say, is history.
Guy who likes to roam around
In Scott’s defense (which I cringe at doing) it must be stated that Whiteside had a very checkered past from the start. Drafted by the Sacramento Kings in 2010 he never got a foothold with the organization. With a few injuries and a couple of stints with the Sacramento D-league affiliate, the Reno Big Horns he was traded to the Sioux Falls Skyforce for another player that is insignificant. When the 2012 D-League season ended, he decided to continue playing basketball abroad and played for the Amchit Club in Lebanon. In 2013 he joined with the Chinese NBL team, the Sichuan Blue Whales, and averaged 25.6 points 16.6 rebounds and 5 blocks leading the team to a 2013 NBL championship. In November of the same year he signed with the Al Moutthand Tripoli, also of the Lebanese basketball league, only to be released in April of 2014. He then returned to China to play for the NBL joining the Jiangsu Tongxi. Shortly after leaving that club he finally returned to the states and signed a deal with the Memphis Grizzlies in September of 2014 only to be waived less than a month after and sent back to the D-League. He was then traded around to multiple D-League teams then finally signed by the Miami Heat on November 24, 2014. After 2 days on the Heat D-League affiliate he was called up for his first NBA game in 4 years. He recorded his first double-double on January 4th 2015 against the Brooklyn nets. After that he was a staple in the Miami Heat’s Lineup.
Catch your breath
Well now that we got that out of the way, let’s go over why he bounced around so much. One of the main knocks on him was his general lack of focus. Whiteside had the talent and physical tools but the overall drive to be great was not there. Could that be attributed to where he started with the Sacramento Kings? You bet it can. With an organization that is still excruciatingly unstable it’s really not surprising that their 2nd round pick just lost interest in being around a dysfunctional team, like Cousins who got away with a lot simply because he was their future star. After bouncing around from place to place I would imagine it humbled him and he was able to find a place with the Heat. They needed a center down low and originally he was supposed to be a filler, however they never anticipated what he would become.
After truly showing what kind of talent many missed out on, including the Lakers, Whiteside had a monster year in 2015-16. Spending half the season coming off the bench Whiteside still averaged 14.2 pts 11.8 rebounds (3rd in the NBA) and a tremendous 3.7 (1st) blocks per game which was a full 1.4 ahead of the next best, DeAndre Jordan. His defensive rating of 94.5 was the best in the NBA and he was 5th in defensive win shares. Essentially after this last season Whiteside has gone from 2nd round scrub, to max level player. Defensively he is an absolute monster down low. His presence alone has the ability to alter shots even if he doesn’t physically alter them himself.
The Lakers 2 main focuses this off-season, whether through the draft or free agency, are going to be Small Forward/Wing and a Center who can protect the paint. Fortunately, this off-season there is an abundance of both. Even more fortunate is the Lakers have an abundance of cap space, at least 2 max players worth plus smaller contracts. With that cap space also comes the urge to spend needlessly. The Lakers front office is smart enough not to dive on a name and hope it sticks. With the addition of Luke Walton and the overall advances of analytics and their willingness to use them, a thorough search will be done to find the right fit for the future of this team.
Personally, I gave Whiteside a 9 out of 10 in overall fit. I did not give him a 10 only because he is a slightly slower player than the fast paced NBA plays at, but overall he is an almost a perfect fit. With Russel, Clarkson, Randle, and growing more likely Ingram, the offense is something the Lakers will have an abundance of in the near future. What they will need is Defense. Clarkson, though stating that he is working on it this summer, is not a good defender at all. Russel is on his way, but still has some ways to go, he is going to be a sophomore next season so he has plenty of time to adjust. Randle is an excellent face to face on ball defender, however he falls asleep off ball and is still a bit young on the post (technically next season will be his sophomore season as well). If drafted by the Lakers, Ingram will be a rookie and has a lot to learn on the defensive side of the ball, as standard with most rookies coming out of college. Ingram has length though and if he bulks up he projects to be great on the defensive end of the floor.
What’s missing in all of this? A veteran rim protector that can alter shots and still be very consistent on the offensive end. Whiteside is that veteran player. One major difference between him and the other rim protecting centers available is that he can take over offensively. Athletically, he is the best of the bunch. He has the ability to pick and roll and look for the pass or crash the offensive board. Considering he did not start in half the games last year and still averaged 14.5 points per game with a per 36 point potential of 17.6 per game, he could very well dominate a game on both ends of the court. Most importantly he knows how to play within himself when he gets the minutes he deserves. When needed he can be the dominate defensive horse the Lakers need defending the rim. Or he can show flashes of becoming an unstoppable offensive powerhouse down low. Either way, in my opinion, Hassan Whiteside is the most important free agent the Lakers need to go after this off-season. With one of the max slots the Lakers have it should not be hard to at least make him think long and hard about coming to the Lakers.
Why would he sign?
Most will ask, why would he come here when the Heat took the Raptors to the brink of the Eastern conference Finals? Well, Dwayne Wade is one reason. Wade is also a free agent and if the Heat want to hang on to him they may not have the ability to sign Whiteside for a max value contract. Wade has given the Heat a ton of years and a ton of pay cuts, so it’s unknown if Wade will be willing to do that again in order to keep the big man. Also Whiteside was visibly upset and vocally upset many times throughout the season with the fact that he was coming off the bench. With Spoelstra remaining the coach it is unknown if Whiteside re-signs or if he will get the starters minutes he wants. The Lakers will give him those minutes on a silver platter. Whiteside will want to sign with a team where he becomes the 2nd option and he will want to be appreciated as such. Signing with the Lakers at least for the first few seasons he will definitely be that.
All this said it’s always a crapshoot with free agency. For all we know Whiteside will take the pay cut to remaining winning now. He might sign with another team he feels is closer to a championship that has a max slot open. Overall, in my opinion, he is the absolute perfect fit to continue this rebuild and even jump it ahead a season or too. We won’t find out till July when the free agency period starts and the emoji’s fly.
Editors note: Whiteside to the Lakers confirmed
Kobe got 40 👀👀👀 hope he get 50 !! #KobesLastGame
— Hassan Whiteside (@youngwhiteside) April 14, 2016