The San Antonio Spurs are going to be major players in free agency, and while they’ve secured a meeting with Kevin Durant, another intriguing player at a position of need looks to be pursued heavily by other teams.
Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN are reporting that the Los Angeles Lakers will make a tenacious run at signing free agent center Hassan Whiteside.
Whiteside is coming off a season in which he lead the NBA by averaging 3.7 blocks per game and provided interior defense deemed worthy of finishing 3rd in the voting for Defensive Player of the Year.
Whiteside also averaged a double-double last season, averaging 14.8 points per game as well as 11.8 rebounds per game.
Whiteside is one of the most talented young centers in the game, but his career has been plagued with erratic behavior and less than ideal relationships with teammates.
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He’d be a character risk for any team, but his ability on both ends of the court are too enticing to not invest a large sum of money in his potential to become maybe the best center in basketball.
The Spurs have not been officially linked to Whiteside, but I’ve written about what a great addition he’d be to a defense that already ranked at the top of the NBA.
Kawhi Leonard is the best perimeter defender in basketball, and Whiteside could very well be the best interior defender in the league. That one-two punch alone would take an already elite defense to the next level.
It’s not like any offense gets sacrificed at the center position with Whiteside, and his rebounding rate is among the best in the league. He was 1 of only 9 players last season to average a double-double, and ranked 2nd in the NBA in Total Rebound Percentage.
This guy is an impact player at a position the Spurs desperately need to fortify. If they do end up pursuing Whiteside if they can’t acquire Durant, they’ll have to compete with numerous potential suitors.
The Dallas Mavericks are said to be courting Whiteside, as well as the Portland Trailblazers. Whiteside will have plenty of options to choose from.
The Miami Heat will also undoubtedly try to bring back Whiteside. At 26 years old, he is just now entering the prime of his career, and the dividends he can return will make him one of the most sought after free agents this offseason.
As with Durant, the Spurs would not be able to offer Whiteside more money than other teams could, at least with how their payroll currently looks.
They would have to rely on their reputation as a model organization to be the main draw for marquee free agents who seek a chance to compete for championships perennially.
Durant has already hinted that winning is his top priority, but it remains to be seen what Whiteside is primarily looking for in a destination.
The Spurs’ main focus might be on Durant right now, but Whiteside could be an enticing fallback option if they can’t land Durant.
San Antonio has the team chemistry and leadership to handle turbulence Whiteside may bring, and if winning is said to be the cure for any malcontent, a player as talented as Whiteside will enjoy helping the Spurs continue their winning ways.