Last year, we saw our first full season of Hassan Whiteside; and disregarding his top-tier social media accounts and teenage temperament, we saw a talented player.
So, how good was Whiteside in the 2015-16 NBA season? Let’s look at some numbers and see for ourselves.
Last year, the Miami Heat big man hosted a league-leading block party to the tune of 3.7 swats per game; 1.4 more blocks per game than the second-best rim protector, DeAndre Jordan, which is ridiculous; places two through 10 were only separated by a measly 0.6 blocks per game. Again, Whiteside was 1.4 more blocks per game than second place alone.
So, averaging 3.7 blocks per game--1.4 more than second place--is impressive, but is it unprecedented?
Turns out it’s not. Serge Ibaka did in 2011-12; he averaged 3.7 blocks per game and was 1.5 blocks per contest over the runner-up, and both Ibaka and Theo Ratliff have averaged 3.7 blocks per game in the last 10 years.
The bigger picture
Sorting for center/forwards with Win Share ratings of 10.3 or more (Whiteside’s rating or better) in the 3-point Era, Whiteside was No.15 of 76 in blocks, notching 269 blocks in 2125 minutes, according to basketball-reference.com
No.14 on that list is David Robinson with 271 blocks. Only Robinson did that with 894 more minutes of playing time than Whiteside.
The Miami big fella averaged 29.1 minutes per game last year, meaning Robinson averaged nearly 31 more games worth of playing time than Whiteside did last year.
No.1 on that same list is Hakeem Olajuwon with 376 blocks, in 3124 minutes. (Nearly a thousand more minutes than Whiteside).
When you look at the same statistics through a per 36 minutes lens, Whiteside’s 2015-16 tightfisted rim protection is really put into perspective. Per 36 minutes, Whiteside averaged 4.6 shots swats. Which is good for No.1 all-time per 36 minutes, according to basketball-reference.com Second place is David Robinson at 4.3 blocks per 36 minutes.
So, in the big picture, it’s not Whiteside’s block totals that are impressive. It’s the time he accrued them in.
However, when you look at a more all-encompassing stat, like basketball-reference.com’s box plus/minus (BPM), a different narrative is presented.
Per basketball-reference.com, among center/forwards who played at 1000 minutes last year, Whiteside ranked seventh in BPM. Above him are Nikola Jokic, Andrew Bogut, Rudy Gobert, DeAndre Jordan, Karl-Anthony Towns, and DeMarcus Cousins. BPM favors players that do multiple things well; and Whiteside -- although a human hydra --has his deficiencies.
Last year, Whiteside often got tunnel vision when he had the ball, resorting to facing up/post-ups, which he is no good at. The “eye test” will tell you he has a nice touch around the rim, though.
Out of 64 players who attempted 100 or more post-ups in 2015-16, Whiteside was No. 54 out of 64, scoring a listless 0.79 points per possession on his post-ups (on 45.3% shooting), according to NBA.com/Stats.
Whiteside must take a page out of Joel Embiid’s handbook: practice post-ups with some 5-foot-10 guy “guarding” you, and post a video on Instagram. It won’t help, but it looks good. And that’s all Whiteside can hope for, for now.
Whiteside’s blinders and determination to score showed up in other places, too.
Per NBA.com/Stats, of all centers who averaged 20-plus minutes per game in last season, Whiteside finished last in Assist to Turnover Ratio (AST/TO); he averaged 0.21 assists for every turnover he accrued.
That’s horrible, even among brick-handed, bumbling big men--of which Whiteside is not.
To put it in perspective, DeAndre Jordan’s AST/TO ratio was 0.84. Jordan was four times more efficient than Whiteside in a category he isn’t known for being very efficient in. DeAndre Jordan should never be more efficient than anyone in a category that isn’t dunking or rebounding.
It gets even clearer when you look at Whiteside’s assists total. In 73 games, he had 29 dimes. That’s about four-tenths (.397) of an assist per game.
Among 5s who played 1000-plus minutes, Whiteside was one of the worst assisting centers in the league, only dribbling out more dimes than Bismack Biyombo (28) and Omer Asik (26), per NBA.com/Stats.
Whiteside’s 29 assists are less than Andre Drummond’s free throw percentage (35.5%)--which is a much closer contest than I would've thought.
Those two numbers aren’t and shouldn’t be correlated, but--these two number shouldn’t be close, and I don’t know who to be more disappointed in. (It’s Drummond; I’m more disappointed in Drummond. Take a page out of the Chinanu Onuaku handbook, please.
When Whiteside wasn’t blocking shots, he was often putting himself out of position by--wait for it--trying to block shots.
A typical Whiteside whif goes like this: Fully extended, Whiteside leaps for the point guards arching push shot, ultimately, putting him out of position to play any real subsequent defense.
Did you read that? Whiteside jumped at a guard’s push shot. He jumped at a player who probably stood 6-to-8 inches shorter than him. A man that can touch the rim while standing on the hardwood just jumped and put himself out of position.
Whiteside is a block-happy defender. If Whiteside would just put his hands up instead of jumping at smaller players, he could shed some of the “he’s an undisciplined defender” commentary and cut down on fouls--which he had trouble last year, especially versus craftier players.
Also, jumping at a 6-foot-2 guard is like trying to pick a fight with the smallest guy in the room, and that can only go two ways: either you win, and big whoop, you beat a smaller guy; or, you lose and look dumb. Often, it goes the second way.
Through all the numbers, we get a definitive answer how good Whiteside really was last year.
The pace at which Whiteside canceled out shots was unprecedented, but--besides his rebounding and social media activity--that’s about all he did at an All-NBA level.
Last year, Whiteside made the NBA’s All-Defensive Second Team. And if he wants to make the more comprehensive All-NBA teams he must improve in a few areas. His passing and his defensive discipline.
Overall, Whiteside’s 14.2-point, 11.8-rebound, and 3.7-block season was good, not great.