Will the Heat’s Hassan Whiteside finally break through and make the Eastern Conference’s All-Star team for the first time in his career this coming season?
ESPN’s panel of forecasters voted the Heat’s 7-foot center last among a list of seven players who will likely be first time All-Stars in 2018 – behind New York’s Kristaps Porzingis, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Washington’s Bradley Beal.
Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, Jazz center Rudy Gobert, the league’s leading shot blocker, and Denver center Nikola Jokic were the three players tabbed as potential first-time All-Star selections in the West. Towns, who averaged 25 points and 12 rebounds per game (becoming only the second player to put those numbers up and not make an All-Star team), received the most votes.
The truth is it might be easier to make the All-Star team in the East than in the West. The East lost three All-Stars to the Western Conference in Paul Millsap (Denver), Paul George (Oklahoma City) and Jimmy Butler (Minnesota) and picked up one in Gordon Hayward (Boston).
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Whiteside, 28, led the league in rebounds last season and blocks the season before that.
He averaged 17 points, 14 rebounds and 2 blocks per game last season – only the 13th time in league history anyone has done that for an entire season, but the first time anyone has done it and not made the All-Star team.
The Heat was 16-30 and in 14th place in the Eastern Conference when the All-Star selections were announced last year. Whiteside placed 11th in the fan vote, eighth in the media vote and 14th in the player polling, which were combined to select the All-Star starters.
The Heat did not have a player representing the franchise in the All-Star game for the first time since Dwyane Wade’s rookie season back in 2004. Whiteside was disappointed to get snubbed and was also upset a center did not made the East’s All-Star squad.
“I would have loved for a center to represent the East,” Whiteside said when asked if he was disappointed he didn’t get the call from the league to replace an injured Kevin Love in the All-Star Game last February. “But that’s not what the fans want to see. Hey, the coaches voted him in. I really have no control over that. I’m trying to make the playoffs. That’s my focus.”
The Heat finished the second half of last season 30-11 and 41-41 overall and just missed the playoffs.
Whiteside did not make any of the three All-NBA teams or the All-Defensive teams.
Next season’s All-Star Game is scheduled for Feb. 18 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.