Hassan Whiteside could be the first high-level, unrestricted free agent to come off the board on Friday. That comes from Whiteside himself, who plans to decide during the first 24 hours of free agency where he’ll play next year and beyond.
The 27-year-old center, ranked No. 10 on our Free Agent Power Rankings, will have a host of pursuers and doesn’t feel any sense of loyalty to stay with the Heat. With the big jump in the salary cap and Whiteside entering the prime of his career, it might take a max deal to land the league’s premier shot blocker. Whiteside averaged a double-double last season (14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds) to go along with his 3.7 blocks per game and posted a whopping 25.7 PER.
Miami’s biggest threat for Whiteside’s services might be the Mavericks. They were the victim of DeAndre Jordan‘s last-minute change of heart last July and owner Mark Cuban is still intent on landing a quality center. Whiteside and point guard Mike Conley are reportedly their top free agent targets. With Dwight Howard heading to the free agent market, the Rockets have their eyes on Whiteside.
The Lakers also plan to enter the Whiteside sweepstakes, as league sources recently told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that Whiteside is a “priority target.” Among the other teams that have been linked to Whiteside are the Celtics, Knicks and Warriors, though Golden State would probably be hesitant to commit to Whiteside before knowing what Kevin Durant will do.
The Heat don’t have a significant advantage to hold off suitors since they only own early Bird rights on him. They’ll have to use cap space to sign him for more than the league average salary and cannot offer a fifth year on his deal. A maximum contract for Whiteside would be a four-year deal approaching $95MM.
It’s an incredible career turnaround for Whiteside, who wasn’t even in the league at the start of the 2014-15 season and only began getting regular playing time after New Year’s Day that season. He’s shown a lack of maturity at times, with several ejections during that 2014-15 season and another this February after being assessed a Flagrant Foul 2. His teammates have questioned his maturity during those instances, and it’s fair to wonder what Whiteside’s motor will be like once he gets his huge contract.
There’s no doubt, though, that Whiteside will become an extremely rich man this summer.
This leads us to our question of the day: Which team will land Heat center Hassan Whiteside in free agency?
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