Since first entering the NBA in 2010, Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside has been somewhat of an enigma and that continues to be the case more than ever in today’s modern game.
With traditional big men such as Whiteside holding less and less value in today’s space-and-pace play style, the 7-footer may run into some difficulties at times and that was on full display during the Heat’s Game 1 loss to the Sixers.
Whiteside played only 12 minutes the entire game but it was obvious his lack of perimeter ability on both ends of the court would put the Heat in a quandary about what to do with their star center. Despite the benching, Whiteside told Miami Herald’s Manny Navarro that he still has the utmost confidence in head coach Erick Spoelstra:
“I think coach wanted some change,” Whiteside answered when asked why he thought he played so little. “K.O. was playing well. Of course, I would love to be out there rebounding and blocking shots and be out there with my teammates. But I think K.O. was playing well so coach just wanted to get him out there.”
“He just wanted to change it up,” Whiteside said of what was said as he went to the bench. “I trust coach. I trust his decision-making. We didn’t get this one. They shot amazing from the field. We didn’t get this one, but we move to Game 2.”
The KO that Hassan Whiteside refers to is offseason acquisition Kelly Olynyk who has proved to be a valuable addition this season. The floor-spacing big man fits today’s mold of a modern 7-footer much better than Whiteside does, especially considering their opponent.
With Joel Embiid sidelined, the Philadelphia 76ers have opted to go small more often than not, even with their starting lineup. The Sixers went with Amir Johnson as their center but he only played 22 minutes, paving the way for the smaller, more versatile frontcourt combo of Dario Saric and Ersan Ilyasova to get the bulk of playing time.
Whiteside played nearly all his 12 minutes in the first half, as he was benched with 7:54 remaining in the third quarter and didn’t take the court again.
Considering their ability to stretch the floor, Olynyk is simply a better option and Whiteside could be rendered almost completely useless this series if he doesn’t take advantage of Embiid’s absence inside. Though down in a 0-1 hole, Erik Spoelstra is one of the premier coaches the NBA has to offer and will certainly come ready with adjustments for Game 2.