Hassan Whiteside was a second round pick in the 2010 Draft who played 19 nondescript games over the first four years of his career and bounced around from Sacramento to the D-League by way of Memphis, Lebanon and China.
Now, he is breaking out as the Miami Heat’s back-up center and quickly becoming one of my favorite players in the league.
Over Miami’s last four games, he has put up 14.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.0 blocks and 77.1% shooting in 24.0 minutes off the bench. Not coincidentally, the Heat have won three of the four.
What exactly is going on?
Quite simply, they are a completely different team with him on the floor.
Golden State center Andrew Bogut is averaging 7.6 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, hardly earth-shattering numbers. However, he has established himself as perhaps the best passing big man in the game as well as one of its finest rim protectors. He has helped lead the Warriors to a league-best 14-2 start and is due proper praise here.
Bogut is a newly-unleashed offensive fulcrum for the Warriors, who are stylistically and statistically much-improved on that end of the floor in large part due to his increased role. I wrote on the eve of the season that the Aussie could “get his Boris Diaw on” and be devastating as a passer in a motion-packed offense under new coach Steve Kerr. He has done exactly that.
Remarkably, Bogut is currently assisting on 18.7% of teammates’ buckets whilst he is on the floor, a distinctly Diaw-like number. Fittingly, Diaw is putting up an almost-identical 18.5% assist percentage.
The starters for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game were announced last week. As usual, the fans got it wrong: Kobe Bryant (6 games, 13.8 PPG) and Kyrie Irving (42.8% shooting, 16-29 record in the putrid Eastern Conference) have no business being in the starting lineups.
Tonight, the reserves will be announced. Who should be selected?
Let us ignore the East – with all due respect to the likes of Paul Millsap, Arron Afflalo and Kyle Lowry – and skip straight to the ultra-loaded and more meaningful West, where there are far more deserving candidates than there are available All-Star roster spots.
After much deliberation, here are the seven players – three frontcourt, two backcourt and two wild cards – who should join Kobe, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin on the squad:
The tutelage of Kevin McHale and Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston has had as much impact on Dwight Howard’s post game as that of Patrick Ewing in Orlando and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Los Angeles: none.
Howard is getting roughly the same number of post touches than he did in Los Angeles, and is still just as feckless at taking advantage of them. His go-to move, if you can call it such a thing, remains an awkward sweeping hook that sometimes goes in and sometimes careens straight off the backboard to the other side of the rim:
Waffling Dwight Howard finally made up his mind: he will leave the Lakers to sign with the Houston Rockets.
Houston offers numerous benefits: desirable city, no state tax, a young and uncluttered roster, a budding young superstar in James Harden, a coach who knows a thing or two about post play, and, perhaps most importantly, the chance to be the top dog without facing the media scrutiny and pressure to win that comes with being a Laker.
Alas, Dwight and the Lakers were never a good match. We all thought it would work just fine: Howard transforming LA’s defense, feasting on alley-oop lobs from Kobe, and forming the most formidable pick-and-roll partnership in the league with Steve Nash. When I spoke with Bill Simmons at the Olympics, we agreed that the Lakers were now overwhelming favorites to win the Western Conference. We were wrong.