Miami Heat Is Better Without Hassan Whiteside on the Court

The Miami Heat has done everything possible to coexist with the phenomenon that is Hassan Whiteside. The team has coddled him in ways it has rarely done for any player. It's structured contracts — including that of its franchise star — to ensure it could remain in a position to break the bank for him this off-season. It's tasked an on-the-court/off-the-court tag team of Alonzo Mourning and Juwan Howard to keep him on the straight-and-narrow when it comes to all things NBA life that most players don't have to be begged to figure out at 26 years old. It's miscast its star point guard — delaying adapting to a style that best suits him — so that it can cater to a style of play that better suits Whiteside. It's continually slowed the bus just so Whiteside can jump on — only to see him jump back off at every stop

Congratulations, Miami Heat — you played yourselves. 

What has become clear during Whiteside's injury-related absence over the past several games is that the Heat plays a better, more current brand of basketball without the mercurial center.

As this season has worn on, it's become easier for fans to wrap their heads around how the Heat could possibly be better off without a player that, on the surface, looks like a vital piece of a championship puzzle. Even if you ignore all the nonsensical high-school locker-room gibberish that comes out of Whiteside's mouth off the court, it's actually what happens between the lines that makes it impossible to imagine a scenario where the Miami Heat hands him anywhere near a max-contract deal. 

What was once a waiting game has now become a game of ignoring the big pink elephant in the room. Whiteside is not going to work in Miami, not unless Miami is prepared to make him king, unless Miami is ready to blow up everything around him. 

Advance stats continue to tell a story that ends with the Heat simply being a better basketball team when Whiteside isn't on the court. All season long, the numbers have shown the Heat has a drastically better defense without its shot-blocking seven-footer standing in the paint. It's no longer too small of a sample size — the Heat is a better defensive team without Whiteside on the court. As it stands, the Heat has a defensive rating of 102.0 with Whiteside on the court and a 96.5 rating with him off the court. The defensive numbers — no matter how hard your eye-test tries to make you disagree — continue to suggest the Heat is a better defensive team when Whiteside doesn't play. 

Last week, ESPN's Tom Haberstroh joined the 790 the Ticket's morning show crew to discuss the conundrum the Miami Heat finds itself in and what story the numbers tell regarding the Heat with/without Whiteside. 

"When you look at the numbers, with Whiteside on the floor, Dwyane Wade scores just 20.6 points per every 36 minutes, and the Heat get outscored by 44 points. When Whiteside is off the floor, Dwyane Wade is averaging 26 points per every 36 minutes, and the Heat are outscoring opponents by two points," Haberstroh said.

In addition to dropping those concerning Wade-Whiteside stats on Heat fans' laps, Haberstroh also touched on how Whiteside's presence in the paint on offense might be doing more harm than good regarding the style the Heat wants to play with Goran Dragic.

"I think when it comes to Goran, he's one of the best finishers in the league at the rim when he's healthy," Haberstroh said. "It comes down to if you have one less big body that you have to deal with down there in the paint, it's going to be much easier for him to score." 

Haberstroh goes on to suggest the Heat may want to cash out on Whiteside and try to get something for him before they let him walk this off-season. Of the possible options mentioned was New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson, who is also a free agent this summer. 

Regardless of what Miami does with Hassan Whiteside the rest of the season, this has become increasingly clear: The Heat is a better basketball team without him.