At the writing of this, just two players in the NBA are averaging more than 15 points, ten rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game: Anthony Davis and Hassan Whiteside.
Davis has produced profound all-around numbers than the Heat’s Whiteside as the New Orleans Pelicans have floundered to a 4-10 start. After DeMar DeRozan’s forgettable performance against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night, Davis sits as the league’s leading scorer with 31.7 points per game, and he’s also leading in blocks (3.0) and is sixth in rebounding (11.5).
Whiteside’s number don’t compare to Davis’ because AD is far more versatile, but the Miami Heat’s young center is having his dominance overlooked.
He’s averaging 17.7 points — a career-high — while leading the league with 16.2 rebounds per game and he’s right behind Davis in the blocks category (2.8). He’s one of the best defensive players in the game, so why isn’t he noticed more?
The first thing that pops up, for me, at least, is that Miami is a mediocre team at best. With a 4-8 record, they’re fourth in their division and 12th in the East — I know, I already said the Pelicans are a bad team, too, and I’m going to tackle that now.
Davis gets so much attention because point totals draw more eyes than any other stat. Just look at some of his games to start the year:
- Oct. 26, 2016, vs. Denver: 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals and four blocks
- Oct. 28, 2016, vs. Golden State: 45 points, 17 rebounds, two steals and two blocks
- Nov. 1, 2016, vs. Milwaukee: 35 points, 15 rebounds, three steals and three blocks
Those are impressive. Don’t refute it. He deserves any praise that he receives because, let’s face it, not many players can stuff the stat sheet like that. Whiteside also has had his fair share of dazzling outings, but they lack the scoring totals to draw eyes from AD:
- Oct. 30, 2016, vs. San Antonio: 27 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks
- Nov. 10, 2016, vs. Chicago: 20 points, 20 rebounds and three blocks
- Nov. 17, 2016, vs. Milwaukee: 12 points, 17 rebounds and seven blocks
The truth is this: rebounds and blocks aren’t pretty stats. But they’re just as (if not more) important as points. Whiteside can score, it’s evident. But it wouldn’t be a shock if people thought his offensive game was boring.
Doing the dirty work on the offensive glass isn’t glamorous, and Hassan doesn’t have extravagant moves in the low post. Contrarily, Davis can take one dribble to his left from the three-point line, pull-up and hoist a right-handed floater from across his body from the free throw line.
It’s pretty. And something not many seven-footers can do. Actually, you’d be hard-pressed to find a handful of players who can do that.
Thus, there is no knock on Whiteside. The NBA is part entertainment, and elite players get overshadowed by elite scorers all the time. Think about how much more fun it is to watch Stephen Curry or Russell Westbrook over Chris Paul. CP3 is playing like the NBA’s best point guard, but the duo above do things that perplex anyone who watches.
Tim Duncan is the ultimate example of this. During his 19-year NBA career, his offense was never “pretty,” but he’s the greatest power forward ever, brought home five championships and will shortly get enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
The second point is that the Heat lack star power. And they also lack Dwyane Wade.
Hassan Whiteside isn’t a superstar — not an all-around one, at least. AD gets recognition because he’s the best at his position and an MVP candidate; even DeMarcus Cousins gets a ton of exposure because he’s such a dominating force.
Teams without a superstar don’t get spoken about, and it’s a shame. Sometimes, it’s deserving. The rest of the time, though, those organization will be very surprising. This leads into my thesis about Dwyane Wade, who, despite athletic regression and diminishing numbers, kept Miami in the national spotlight.
In 2015-16, Miami had 11 nationally televised games. This year, it’s five.
Because of his pedigree, everyone would want to see if Wade had a big game, and those keeping constant tabs on the Heat led to the rise of Whiteside, who started swatting shots and inhaling rebounds at a rate that fans couldn’t ignore.
Now, Wade’s gone. And he took the national exposure for the Heat to Chicago. The Bulls have 25 games broadcasted nationally this year, up two from last season.
Did Flash’s arrival in Chicago play a huge part in their two additional telecasts? Probably not, but it certainly played a role in Miami dropping six. After all, the NBA is a business. And they want to put the best players in front of the most fans.
The local fans, however, are just as engaged with their hometown team, and attendance at AmericanAirlines Arena through 12 games is sixth in the league, according to Basketball-Reference.
Hassan Whiteside is a fantastic, young player who will be a bona fide superstar in a couple of years. This season, whether you believe will get overlooked or not, is merely a stepping stone.
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