As the Miami Heat kick off training camp on Tuesday, all eyes are on Hassan Whiteside who was a breakout star last year. With Chris Bosh out with health issues, Whiteside stepped in and became a huge asset to the Heat. The team rewarded the center with a fully guaranteed contract for this year, but will that turn into a hefty contract extension as Kevin Durant enters the picture?
Whiteside will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason and while it seems like a no-brainer to re-sign him, the Heat have a lot of options in front of them. According to Zach Lowe of Grantland.com, the Heat are contenders for Durant who will also be a free agent next summer. As the Heat aim to have $40 million in salary cap space to work with next summer, the team will be hard-pressed to sign Durant while giving Whiteside and Dwyane Wade new deals as well. Lowe reports that the Heat do not have full Bird rights on Whiteside meaning they will have to dip into their salary cap space to re-sign him and that could become an issue.
With Bosh back and healthy, it is unclear the exact role Whiteside will have this season. According to Ira Winderman of the Miami Sun-Sentinel, the Heat might not operate with a conventional lineup. Bosh and Whiteside can rotation between center and power forward depending on the opposing lineup while the offense is fed through Wade and Goran Dragic. The idea is that Whiteside and Bosh will form one of the best front-court duos in the league and give the Heat plenty of advantages.
The Heat would be wise not to put all of their eggs in the Durant basket. If the team lets Whiteside dip a toe into free agency, teams will come with big money, especially if he puts up a big year with Bosh by his side. The Heat run the risk of losing both Whiteside and Durant leaving them with a lot of holes on the roster. For now, they will see how the young center develops and capitalizes off last season.
The Heat's training camp comes with plenty of headlines. Luol Deng and Justise Winslow will battle to start at the small forward position. According to the Miami Herald, the Heat are still in favor of a trade of either Mario Chalmers or Chris Andersen to lessen their luxury tax burdens. Josh McRoberts could also be tossed into that trade pool as well. Wade's health is another area of concern as he plays off a one-year contract. The Heat fully expect to be contenders this season, but that remains to be seen.