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Hollinger Labels Whiteside as ‘Perfect Stopgap Starter’

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The Athletic’s John Hollinger is bullish on Hassan Whiteside’s earning potential in the NBA’s upcoming free agency period.

Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Lakers - Game One Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Trail Blazers center and upcoming unrestricted free agent Hassan Whiteside has the potential to emerge as a winner in the NBA’s upcoming free agency period. According to The Athletic’s John Hollinger, the former Heat star is slotted to earn a contract that could exceed the standard mid-level exception.

In his breakdown of free agent centers, Hollinger placed Whiteside in the “more than MLE, less than max” category. Hollinger, who did not specify if he actually watched Whiteside play basketball last season, explained that the big fella’s flaws are often overblown.

It’s easy to focus too much on the weaknesses and ignore some of the huge strengths. Whiteside shot 62.1 percent and led the league in blocks; a year earlier he led it in Rebound Rate. Few other bigs control the interior as well as he does, and those that do generally cost twice as much if they’re attainable at all.

Hollinger also highlighted why Whiteside is not a candidate for another near-max contract.

That said, his lack of passing or long-range shooting ability can gum up an offense if his catches aren’t near the basket, and his presence basically requires defenses to play a drop coverage that keeps him near the rim.

Finally, after weighing the pros and cons attached to Whiteside, Hollinger labelled Whiteside as perfect stopgap starter, a billing that could command a yearly salary in the range of $17.2 million.

What he is, in other words, is the perfect stopgap starter — just like he was for Portland this past season. There isn’t a lot of cap room to chase centers this summer, so he could end up back with the Blazers on a one-year deal, but I’m guessing some center-needy team (Charlotte? Detroit?) finds enough change under the cushions to pay him in the $15 million ballpark for a year or two.

Serving as a replacement for injured center Jusuf Nurkic in his first season with the Blazers, Whiteside appeared in 67 regular season games (61 starts). In those outings, he averaged 15.5 points and a league-leading 2.9 blocks per game.

You can read the full story from Hollinger at The Athletic (subscription required).