While the Boston Celtics may be projected as a top-tier team in the Eastern Conference heading into the 2019-20 season, they are far from being a perfect unit. However, could a deal for Portland Trailblazers center Hassan Whiteside bring them closer to such a status?
Heading into the preseason, the biggest concern for the Boston Celtics in 2019-20 looked to be their center rotation. While they may roster some solid talent at the position, none of them are all-around players.
Enes Kanter is a walking double-double on offense with zero interest in playing defense. Robert Williams, while coined as being quite the defensive presence, is woefully pedestrian on offense. Vincent Poirer has shown some flashes, but has by no means made himself into a “household” name. And Tacko Fall, though a household name, is 1) on a Two-Way contract and 2) a total work-in-progress on both ends of the court.
As of right now, it is presumed that third-year pro Daniel Theis will be the team’s starting center come opening day. His solid play throughout the preseason, coupled with his familiarity with Brad Stevens’ system is probably the reason for the 27-year-old’s newly found starting gig.
While Theis may be the most likely to join the first five in the rotation, he by no means makes the team’s front court any more menacing. Now, as the regular season rapidly approaches, it appears the biggest concern for the Boston Celtics is exactly the same as it was prior to preseason: their center rotation.
Recently, we published a piece discussing some buy-low targets the Boston Celtics should look into acquiring this upcoming season (**it’s a fun read FYI**). While all the players mentioned would benefit Beantown in their own right, quite possibly the player that makes the most sense in attaining is the uber athletic big-man, Hassan Whiteside.
Since signing his four-year, $98 million deal with the Miami Heat in the summer of 2016 Whiteside’s production on the court has been on a steady decline. Once seen as a potential cornerstone for the franchise, this summer, Miami’s President of Basketball Operations, Pat Riley, decided to cut ties with the seven footer in favor of talented youngster Bam Adebayo and shipped him off to the Portland Trailblazers in a four team trade.
With Portland’s usual starting center, Jusuf Nurkic, expected to be rehabbing from his broken tibia and fibula injury for a chunk of this upcoming campaign, Whiteside will be the team’s replacement at the five. However, what happens to the veteran center once Nurkic returns?
A major reason for Whiteside’s dwindling counting stats over the years has not been due to a decline in skill but, rather, a dip in minutes. With the rise of Adebayo, to Whiteside’s displeasure, minutes at center began to be split amongst the two big-men which, in turn, impacted the veteran’s production and, ultimately, made him more of a distraction than a serviceable contributor.
With this in mind, perhaps the Trailblazers may want to think about trading Whiteside once Nurkic returns in an attempt to lessen the possibility of a repeat of what transpired in the Sunshine State. With the Boston Celtics’ need for a center, there would be no such fear, as Whiteside would easily be the team’s unquestioned number-one option at the position and, thus, would come across significant playing time.
Though the 2018-19 season was seen as a down year for the 30-year-old, his statistics were still quite impressive. In fact, they weren’t that much different from recently departed Boston big-man Al Horford‘s statistical turnout.
In 23 minutes per game, Whiteside put up averages of 12.3 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game on 57% shooting from the field. Looking at what the Boston Celtics currently have at their center position, these types of stats would easily be welcomed with open arms for the 2019-20 campaign. And, again, lets not forget, he put up these numbers with a cut in his minutes due to split playing time with Adebayo.
Per 36 minutes, Whiteside’s averages get even crazier. With this conversion, last season, the center puts up 19.1 points, 17.6 boards (would have lead the league) and a whopping 2.9 blocks per game — still not higher than his actual block-per-game average of 3.7 back in 2015-16.
Trading for Whiteside would be a low risk, very high reward value for the Boston Celtics. If they managed to bring him in and give him starter’s minutes, the hope would be the center would, at the least, produce like he did last season.
With the way the team is currently constructed, a center who can gobble up boards, block shots at will and flash impressive post work on offense would easily be seen as a huge plus for a team already projected to be a force to reckon with come the regular season. On the contrary, however, if the Celtics trade for Whiteside and it doesn’t end up working out, they can just cut ties with him at seasons end, for 2019-20 is the final year of his deal anyway.
With less than a week to go before the regular season begins, the Boston Celtics still find themselves with more questions than answers in regard to their center position. On an expiring contract, as well as being on a team scheduled to get their usual starting five back this season, Danny Ainge should seriously consider inquiring about the services of Hassan Whiteside.