Hassan Whiteside became just the fourth player since the turn of the century to reject more than 250 shots last season. Miami plans to feature him defensively, meaning he could be the first player in over 20 years to average more than 4.0 blocks per game.
Any time Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside is on the floor, a shot attempt from the opposing team is likely to get rerouted.
The massive 7-foot-7 wingspan of Whiteside routinely forces anyone trying to loft a shot over him to adjust their shot, resulting in either a missed shot or an embarrassing rejection.
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All he needs to grab a hold of the rim is to stand on his tippy toes. When he elevates on the defensive end, he swallows up opponents shots at a pace the league hasn’t seen in decades.
Miami rejected 33 more shots than any other team in the league, behind Whiteside outpacing every other player in the league by 92 blocks.
Less than six percent of the total shots attempted last were sent back by an opponent last season. The 30 teams in the NBA attempted a total of 208,049 shots during the regular season, with 12,193 being swatted away on their approach to the rim.
The frequency Whiteside blocks shots hasn’t been matched in years. Whiteside led the NBA in block percentage at 9.7 percent, the fifth highest in league history.
The figure indicates that Whiteside managed to reject 9.7 percent of the 2-point field goals the opposition attempted while he was on the floor.
The result was Whiteside erasing a league-best 2.27 points a night, according to Nylon Calculus, helping the Heat rank fifth in the NBA in points allowed at 98.6 per game last season.
Teams across the league are intentionally trying to counter dominant shot blocking by dotting the perimeter with front court players capable of shooting from 3-point range.
The dynamic has effectively phased out the advantage provided by shot blockers.
Twenty years ago, four players rejected more than 200 shots, while Whiteside was the only player to tally the total last season.
Two decades ago also marked the final time a player rejected more than 4.0 shots per game for an entire year, a figure that was routine since the NBA started keeping track of blocks during the 1973-74 season.
Nine players on 17 different occasions averaged more than four blocks per game, with Dikembe Mutombo last achieving the feat during the 1995-96 season.
For a majority of the year, Whiteside flirted with the figure, averaging over 4.0 blocks per game 43 games into the season, until a strained oblique began to take its toll.
Whiteside finished with an average of 3.7 blocks per game, 1.4 more than any other player in the league.
Miami allowed Whiteside to camp out at the rim, resulting in the opposition attempting 10.5 shots against him at the basket, the second most in the NBA.
A majority of the blocks came in bulk for Whiteside. Out of 2,460 regular season games last year, only three finished with a player swatting away 10 or more shots and all three were submitted by Whiteside.
Since joining the Heat in 2014, Whiteside has submitted three triple-doubles featuring 10 or more blocks, no other player in the league has posted a triple-double with blocks in the past three seasons.
The close proximity didn’t lead to an easy bucket with Whiteside challenging the shot, as offensive players converted just 46.9 percent of their attempts at the rim with him defending.
Miami is hoping Whiteside can become just the 11th different player ever to reject 300 shots in a season. No player has managed to accumulate the total since Theo Ratliff during the 2003-04 campaign.
Perhaps the only force capable of stopping Whiteside is himself.
Last year Heat coach Erik Spoelstra admitted to benching Whiteside for portions of the year as he dealt with fatigue issues.
Even though the 27-year-old center ranked first in blocks and third in rebounding, at 11.8 per game, Whiteside started just 58.9 percent of the time.
In 140 career appearances, Whiteside has logged 40 or more minutes just once and has spent 30 or more minutes in 32.1 percent of his total games played.
If he averaged 36 minutes a night last season, he would have averaged 4.6 blocks per game, but spending so much time on the court is a rarity at the center position.
DeMarcus Cousins led all centers in minutes per game at 34.1, while a total of 10 centers logged over 30 minutes a night.
Even with limited time in the preseason, as Whiteside has averaged 24.3 minutes per game, he simply can’t be stopped.
Whiteside has blocked at least three shots in all three of his preseason appearances, including four Tuesday night against Brooklyn.
Following Miami’s121-100 victory over the Nets, he increased his preseason averages to 19.3 points on 71.4 percent shooting, 13 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game.
Even with teams drifting further away from the rim, Whiteside has found a way to consistently provide a shot blocking impact for the Heat.
The rejections are poised to come at a frequency the league hasn’t seen for two decades, as Whiteside hopes to establish himself as the NBA’s premier shot blocker.