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Trail Blazers should keep Whiteside

Is Hassan Whiteside better than a minimum salary player?

New York Knicks v Miami Heat Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

I’m going to make the “should the Blazers re-sign Hassan Whiteside” discussion very simple. It all comes down to one question: Is Whiteside better than a minimum salary player? Despite all the notable flaws in his game, the answer to that question is a pretty obvious yes. Which means general manager Neil Olshey should make an effort to re-sign him this summer.

Salary cap realities

Re-signing Whiteside is only partly a basketball argument. The decision will be driven primarily by salary cap considerations. Specifically, the Blazers already project to have a payroll of about $114 million next season, before signing any draft picks or worrying about Whiteside. The cap will hopefully stay flat at $109. Even if Olshey cuts Ariza to save about $10 million, the Blazers will still be so close to the cap that they’re better off using the mid-level exception to sign players.

The important point here: The Blazers will have no cap space regardless of whether or not they retain Whiteside.

The corollary to that point is that if they let Whiteside walk, the best they can hope to do is replace him with a minimum salary fill-in. Any discussion of letting him walk needs to revolve around justifying how a minimum salary player (e.g. Anthony Tolliver or Mario Hezonja) would help the Blazers win more games than Whiteside.

An Extra Roster Spot?

This is the point where someone will point out that Whiteside will take up a roster spot that could go to a prospect. But the Blazers already have roster spots committed to Anfernee Simons, Nassir Little, Wenyen Gabriel, and this year’s first round draft pick. Plus two additional open spots even AFTER signing Whiteside. Plus two two-way players.

Does Portland really need to let Whiteside walk to save an EIGHTH roster spot for a minimum salary roulette spin?

They do not.

Trading Whiteside?

The follow-up question is whether or not the Blazers could sign Whiteside and use him for trade bait later in the season. That’s a bit of a catch-22. If he signs with Portland it probably means he couldn’t get a better offer elsewhere. But if he couldn’t get a better offer elsewhere the Blazers have to know he’s nigh untradeable (unless someone has an injury and/or gets desperate). Do the Blazers want to risk signing Whiteside if they know it will be tough to trade him? When the alternative is ::check notes:: Pau Gasol the answer is probably yes.

Bottom Line

An unnamed Blazer’s Edge writer and I had a running joke during the season: You could tell which teams were well-coached based on how they attacked Whiteside. Bad teams drove at him with no misdirection and had their offense swallowed up by prolific shot-blocking. Good teams made pass and often scored easily against Whiteside’s interior defense. I don’t particularly want to watch that again for 82 games. But, despite his flaws, Whiteside is leaps and bounds better than a random minimum salary fill-in. Any argument to let him walk needs to address that reality.