The Washington Wizards are quickly approaching one of the most important and unpredictable summers in the history of their franchise. The team will have plenty of money to spend on talent and lots of roster spots that need to be filled, even once you factor in the max deal they'll likely offer Bradley Beal to keep him in Washington.
To help guide the process (and give us something to talk about because the Wizards don't have a draft pick this summer) we've created a list ranking the Top 30 players available, based strictly on their talent and how they would help the Wizards.
Previously, we took a look at Nicolas Batum. Now we continue our series with a look at the 2nd ranked player on our list: Hassan Whiteside.
This past season, the Wizards struggled both on defense and on the boards. The Wizards fell from 5th to 14th in defensive efficiency and fell from 4th to 25th in rebounding. With Hassan Whiteside, the Wizards could become elite in both aspects as they craft their new defensive identity. Better yet, they can do it without sacrificing anything on the offensive end.
How Whiteside can help the Wizards
Whiteside would bring an instant solution to Washington's poor rebounding and defensive rankings. Last season, he averaged 14.2 points per game, 11.8 rebounds, and 3.7 blocks in only 29.1 minutes of action per game for the Heat. Whiteside was a key part of why the Heat were able to finish with the seventh-best defensive rating in the NBA this season after finishing 19th last season.
His interior defense made it almost impossible for opposing teams to score easy buckets near the rim. He averaged 1.4 blocks per game more than the second-best shot blocker last season, DeAndre Jordan. But even when he can't get his hand on opposing shots, his presence forces shooters into bad shots. Opponents shot only 46.9 percent at the rim when they tried shots against Whiteside, the third-best mark in the league who faced at least eight shot attempts per game.
However, the Wizards would arguably benefit most from what Whiteside can bring to the table on the offensive side. When the Wizards acquired Markieef Morris, it gave John Wall an athletic big who could be on the receiving end of a highlight lob. With Whiteside, they'd have an another, even more athletic lob threat with a bigger catch radius:
Whiteside averaged 1.34 points per possession as the roll man in pick-and-roll situations, the second-best mark in the league last season among players involved in at least 100 such plays. That makes him one of the few big men in the league who would be an upgrade in pick-and-rolls over Marcin Gortat, who finished 6th in that category last season.
Having Whiteside would open up even more room for Wall to operate, force defenders to sag off Beal more, and give the Wizards another reliable option in their halfcourt offense.
How Whiteside can hurt the Wizards
For all the potential and impact Whiteside would bring to the game, unfortunately, there are character concerns. His questionable work ethic kept him from emerging in the NBA until last season when the Heat (a team with a strong structure and identity) were able to put him in a position where he could succeed. Would the Wizards locker room, with all the speculation of conflict and favoritism last season, be stable enough to welcome in a player that is known to lose his cool?
On the bright side, he only picked up four technical fouls this year, down from the seven he picked up in only 48 games last season, so there is a reason for hope. Then again, you could argue that's just a matter him being on his best behavior in a contract year. Who's to say that holds up once he transitions from being a player on a minimum deal to a player on a maximum deal?
Also, acquiring Whiteside would also mean the Wizards would have to trade Marcin Gortat. While the Wizards should be able to get a decent return for him, since he's on a favorable deal, but they might have to sell low if teams know Gortat doesn't fit into Washington's future plans.
While there is some risk involved, it all comes down to John Wall needing help and the Wizards needing to find an identity. Wall told J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic this week he wants the team to the team to add "a big man that can protect this paint and block shots."
With Whiteside, the Wizards would have an explosive player at the center position for the first time since Shaqtin a Fool MVP, Javale McGee. The thought of Wall and Whiteside pairing up on pick and rolls or causing chaos on the fast break would bring some much-needed excitement to Verizon Center.
As the Raptors showed in the Eastern Conference Finals with Bismack Biyombo, you need defense, disruption, and length to challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers. Hassan Whiteside would offer that, and so much more with the Washington Wizards next season.