Miami Heat's Hassan Whiteside ponders free agency
Hassan Whiteside has scheduled meetings with the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers in New York in the next 24 hours, and the Heat also very much remains in play for his services, according to someone with direct knowledge.
Whiteside has received interest from a bunch of teams, but to this point, he has agreed to meet with only two, besides Miami: Dallas and Portland.
He met with Heat president Pat Riley a couple of weeks ago and is expected to meet again with Riley sometime over the next two days. Riley will meet with Kevin Durant on Sunday.
One person who spoke to the Heat said there is growing sentiment internally to offer him a max deal (if Miami doesn't get Kevin Durant), even though some inside the Heat do not view him as a max player. But that is not definite and the Heat has been going back and forth on this.
The Heat could offer Whiteside four years and $98 million. Other teams can offer four years and $94 million. Whiteside's first-year max would be $22 million if the cap settles at $94 million, as projected.
The Heat would love for Whiteside to wait until it has clarity on Durant, but Whiteside might not be willing to do that, according to an associate. Whiteside has not made a decision on that.
If Whiteside tells the Heat that he wants to make a decision before Miami has clarity on Durant, the Heat could then trade Goran Dragic and Josh McRoberts to create the necessary cap room to sign Durant and Whiteside to max deals and give a respectable deal to Dwyane Wade. That scenario has been discussed internally but the Heat would likely not trade Dragic unless it is sure it is getting Durant and needs to open cap space for Durant, Whiteside and Wade. But it's uncertain if the Heat would definitely do that if Whiteside wants a firm offer from the Heat before Durant makes a decision.
The Heat enters free agency with $42 million in space, not including cap holds for Wade or any of its unrestricted free agents. So Miami has the cap space to give Whiteside a max deal immediately if it wants.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is expected to make a strong presentation to Durant shortly after the midnight start of free agency. And Portland also is intriguing to Whiteside because it has a strong young nucleus and elite backcourt that helped the Blazers advance to the second round of the playoffs last season.
But an associate of Whiteside cautioned that he still likes the Heat if Miami meets his financial expectations.