The Miami Heat are on their way to having one of the best teams in the NBA. Standing with a 2-1 record, the Heat have already defeated two teams who are potentially going to play in the playoffs in the Charlotte Hornets and Houston Rockets.
The determining factor in most of these games and moving forward for the season will rest on the shoulders of Miami’s 26-year-old 7-0′ 265-pound center Hassan Whiteside. Sometimes Whiteside looks less than stellar like he did during the first two games when he scored a combined 15 points. However, most of the time Whiteside plays like he’s the best center in the entire NBA. Unfortunately for the Houston Rockets, Whiteside looked like the latter and there was nothing they could do to stop him. Whiteside finished with a monster game of 25 points on 12-of-15 shooting, 15 rebounds, one assist, three steals and two blocked shots in Miami’s 109-89 win over a Houston team who many feel is a darkhorse contender to reach the 2016 NBA Finals.
On the floor with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and James Harden, it was Whiteside who shined the brightest. The Heat have a gem on their hands because Whiteside this season should make the NBA All-Star game and it could give Miami more than enough firepower to compete for the Eastern Conference Championship.
Whiteside is slowly becoming Miami’s most important player because of the skill set that he possess. On a team with Wade and Bosh, the Heat need these types of games more often from Whiteside because he needs to become Miami’s third-best scoring option. This season on the perimeter Wade has been having an awesome year and looks like he’s on his way to making his 12th NBA All-Star game appearance. Wade’s been averaging 21.7 points per game on 44 percent shooting, 5.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game. Bosh, on the other hand, has been averaging a modest 15.7 points on 41 percent shooting but is almost averaging a double-double because he’s pulling down 7.7 rebounds per game as well. Bosh is also averaging 1.3 assists, and one block per contest. Bosh’s scoring numbers are going to increase when he starts shooting at a higher clip, which will happen when he starts to float inside of the paint more often.
However, Whiteside on the other hand already is averaging monster numbers of 13.3 points on 69 percent shooting, 10 rebounds, one steal and 3.3 blocks per game. The scoring numbers are somewhat alarming because they’re so low, but Whiteside is only averaging 8.7 shots per game. As soon as his field goal attempts per game increase, his scoring numbers are going to skyrocket. Against Houston, Whiteside shot the ball 15 times which were the most he’s done all year and dropped 25 points. In his previous two games, he only shot the ball 11 times combined.
Although the scoring of Whiteside very important to the Heat’s success, they need him more on the defensive side of the basketball to make up for the deficiencies of their lack of interior presence. Whiteside gives the Heat exactly what they need out of their center position, a person who can control the tempo of the game, someone who can ensure opponents aren’t getting second chance opportunities, and a safety net who can swat away easy attempts in the paint.
Whiteside’s ability gives Miami something that many teams have been dying for, a dynamic game changing center in the prime of their career. Whiteside talent this year could have him playing in the All-Star game, or it could have him in the postseason making a big run. Either way, Miami needs to make sure he’s getting at least 15 shots a game in order for their team to become successful because he’s becoming Miami’s most important player.
D’Joumbarey A. Moreau covers sports in Miami-Dade & Broward County. You can follow him on Twitter @DJoumbarey.