Brynn Anderson/Associated Press
Free agency isn’t always just about money, but in Hassan Whiteside’s case, it should be.
His contract with the Miami Heat offers two options this summer: stay put and pocket a cool $27.1 million, or risk everything by entering an open market growing increasingly disinterested in interior big men.
In other words, there is no decision, right? You take the money and stay. But somehow the big fella has decided this isn’t so cut and dry.
“I’m definitely going to weigh my options,” Whiteside said in April, per Anthony Chiang and Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “It’s definitely a decision I got to make and do the best for me. I feel like if I’m playing, I’m going to produce, so it will take care of itself.”
No one has ever accused Whiteside of lacking confidence, but this seems reckless.
Teams aren’t paying non-shooting bigs. JaVale McGee, Nerlens Noel and Zaza Pachulia all settled for minimum money last summer. Dwight Howard (two years, $11 million) and Montrezl Harrell (two years, $12 million) got a pinch more. The only two to really cash in were DeAndre Jordan (who only signed for one season) and Clint Capela (who’s a lot younger and plenty more mobile than Whiteside).
There’s zero reason to believe the market will behave differently this summer.
In fact, it could be worse for throwback bigs. The center class isn’t just crowded, it’s loaded with stretchy 5s like Horford (maybe), Lopez, Nikola Vucevic, Marc Gasol, DeMarcus Cousins and Dewayne Dedmon. Plus, teams targeting traditional centers could potentially value Jordan, Davis, McGee, Willie Cauley-Stein, Jonas Valanciunas, Enes Kanter, Thomas Bryant and/or Robin Lopez more than Whiteside.
Even if the Heat don’t have the available minutes Whiteside wants, there’s no guarantee anyone else does, either. It’s much better to stick out this season, embrace whichever role he’s given, put another massive sum in his bank account and then see if the grass is any greener next summer.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @ZachBuckleyNBA.