Barry Jackson

The eye-opening numbers on Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside’s fourth-quarter minutes

Heat center Hassan Whiteside reaches for a rebound against Chicago’s Robin Lopez in Monday’s game. Entering Wednesday’s game in Milwaukee, Whiteside hadn’t played in the fourth quarter of five of the past 10 games. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Heat center Hassan Whiteside reaches for a rebound against Chicago’s Robin Lopez in Monday’s game. Entering Wednesday’s game in Milwaukee, Whiteside hadn’t played in the fourth quarter of five of the past 10 games. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

You might not know much about NBA players Fred VanVleet, David Nwaba, Bryn Forbes and Ski Labissiere, but they share something in common:

All are averaging more fourth-quarter minutes, in more than 20 games for each of them, than Heat center Hassan Whiteside is averaging this season.

So, for that matter, are 228 other NBA players.

Whiteside arrived in Milwaukee for Wednesday’s game ranked just ninth on the Heat in fourth quarter minutes at 6.3 per game. That’s 233rd in the league.

Heading into Wednesday’s game at BMO Harris Bradley Center, Whiteside hadn’t played even a minute in the fourth quarter of five of Miami’s 10 games since he returned from a 13-game absence due to a knee injury.

And here’s another way of looking at it: Of the NBA’s 22 highest paid players this season (four are tied from 19 to 22), Whiteside is averaging fewer fourth quarter minutes than all but one: Golden State’s Steph Curry.

And there’s a caveat with Curry, because the Warriors have won a bunch of lopsided games in which Curry and the other starters have rested for much of the fourth quarter.

Whiteside is tied with Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond and Bradley Beal for 19th in salary this season at $23.7 million.

But while Whiteside averages 6.3 minutes of playing time in the fourth, Davis has averaged 8.5 and Drummond and Beal 7.7 apiece.

A few factors are in play: Erik Spoelstra at times has opted for more versatile lineups with a center (Kelly Olynyk or James Johnson) who is more adept at playing on the perimeter both offensively and defensively.

Sometimes Spoelstra sticks with a lineup that has been playing well with Whiteside out of the game.

But the other issue is that Whiteside hasn’t consistently played to the level of the coaching staff’s expectations.

Whiteside’s fourth quarter statistics are pretty good: He has 47 rebounds, seven blocks, two assists and three turnovers in those 94 fourth-quarter minutes while shooting 62.8 percent from the field (27 for 43) and 75 percent (12 for 16) on free throws.

The Heat has outscored opponents by 16 points in Whiteside’s 94 fourth-quarter minutes.

Asked Wednesday if he had or would discuss his fourth-quarter role with Spoelstra, Whiteside said:

“Yeah and no. I didn’t play in the fourth quarter in Milwaukee either [Sunday] but we won so it’s tough to say right now. I think a lot of times those guys are playing so well that I don’t need to come back in the fourth quarter.”

He said players gave him a game ball against Milwaukee “and I didn’t play in the fourth quarter because I didn’t need to come back in the fourth quarter because we were winning by so much. It’s different scenarios.”

Whiteside, who has missed 18 of the Heat’s 43 games because of injury, has played 35 of the Heat’s 90 clutch minutes, with the NBA defining clutch as the final five minutes of games with a margin of five points or fewer.

That is eighth most on the team and Miami has outscored the opponent by 28 points in those minutes.

Asked Wednesday morning if he’s playing up to his standards, Whiteside said: “I feel like it’s the same per minute. I feel like the efficiency is still there. As long as we’re winning. We’ve got a ton of bigs now, a ton of big men. The frontcourt is pretty packed nowadaways.”

Whiteside is averaging 13.8 points, 11.6 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 25.5 minutes per game this season, compared with 17.0 points, a league-high 14.1 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 32.6 minutes last season.

But he’s actually averaging more points, rebounds and blocks per 36 minutes this season than last season.

What has Spoelstra told him he wants from him?

“It’s not anything particular,” Whiteside said. “He keeps wanting me to dominate every day and every game I come out. Just keep being consistent with that and everything will take care of itself.”

Spoelstra on Wednesday was asked what specific areas Whiteside excelled in the second half of last season that he needs to display more consistency with now.

“He knows; we know; everybody knows,” Spoelstra said. “We’re a great team when he plays at his best level. It’s not just him. We’re trying to get everybody playing at their highest level.”

Whiteside on Thursday will attend when East Side High in Newark, N.J. retires jersey numbers for Whiteside and NBA guard Randy Foye. Whiteside attended that school as a junior. The Heat plays in Brooklyn on Friday.

Here’s my Wednesday morning update on Tyler Johnson’s injury.

Here’s my Wednesday morning exclusive on Jarvis Landry and his agent expressing disappointment in his Dolphins contract negotiations. His agent has a lot to say about criticisms of Landry.

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