Once free agency begins this off-season, one of the most sought after free agents will be Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside. With a massive hole at center, the Los Angeles Lakers are expected to be one of many teams attempting to bring him in.
The 26-year old led the NBA in blocked shots by a wide margin and also ranked third in rebounding. With so many teams having cap space it is expected that Whiteside will command a maximum contract this summer.
According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, however, the Heat may try to convince Whiteside to take less money to remain with the team:
There will be considerable debate inside the Heat over the next six weeks about how much to offer Hassan Whiteside when free agency begins July 1.
The Heat values him but someone who has spoken to the team’s front office said he believes the Heat will try to convince him to take something less than the max deal he almost assuredly could get elsewhere.
This mindset would make sense as Whiteside presents an interesting dilemma for the Heat. The Heat do not own Whiteside’s Bird Rights meaning they can’t go over the cap to re-sign him. This means if the Heat were to sign Whiteside to a max deal, they would have very little money to sign any other major free agents. With Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, and Joe Johnson all free agents as well, the Heat are in a tough situation.
And apparently the Heat have a major one in mind as they plan to pursue Kevin Durant, and if they are successful in doing so, it makes it highly unlikely they will retain Whiteside:
And of course, all this is moot if the Heat can sign Kevin Durant, which is Miami’s No. 1 priority in free agency. If Miami can sign Durant, keeping Whiteside becomes highly unlikely. That’s why the Heat needs a read on Durant before it can move forward with Whiteside.
The one advantage the Heat do have is that they can still offer Whiteside more money than anyone else if they choose to do so. Whiteside will undoubtedly have max contract offers from a number of different teams so the Heat may be hard-pressed to keep him for anything less.
If the Lakers do make a run at Whiteside, it would probably be better for them to go after him very early. The Lakers will have enough room to sign two max players so even if they were to lock down Whiteside, they could still sign someone else as well.