SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Though the Heat ideally would prefer to re-sign Hassan Whiteside at something less than a max deal (but ultimately might need to offer that), a competing and respected NBA general manager explained to me recently why it would be short-sighted for Miami to risk losing him over a few million dollars a year, why it’s easy to justify a max deal for Whiteside (starting at a projected $21.6 million) and why he’s going to be offered that by multiple teams.
The GM, who cannot be named because of NBA tampering rules, listed four reasons:
1) Where else, he said, are you going to find a player so skilled at deterring shots (Whiteside's blocked shots average was the league’s highest in 15 years), at rebounding (fourth in the league) and with a developing offensive game where he’s now seen as a player who could average between 15 to 18 points a game? There’s nobody else remotely like that in this free agent class, the GM said.
2) With the big spike in the cap assured to drive up salaries for most everybody, the GM said it’s pointless to offer only $19 million to start – and allow yourself to be outbid – “because that extra $3 million is not going to get you” anything close to an impact player. So just give him the $22 million, the GM said.
3) His annual raises will be offset by another big jump in the salary cap in 2017-18. The cap is projected to be $92 million next season, then rise again to $107 million in 2017-18. The cap is then expected to fluctuate between $105 million and $112 million in the following three seasons, though that could change if the players opt out of the deal after next season (widely expected to happen by the December 2016 deadline) and get an even bigger chunk of the revenue.
Under the current labor deal, Whiteside would be eligible for annual 7.5 percent raises in a four-year deal from the Heat, 4.5 percent from other teams.
4) Supply and demand. The GM said there are so few elite players in this class that Whiteside’s market will be even higher than it would be ordinarily, especially coupled with the fact that more than two-thirds of the teams can clear out $20 million or more in cap space.
Among free agents, Whiteside is the only impact center in the first half of his career. Al Horford, Al Jefferson, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Dwight Howard will be 30 or older by the end of this calendar year. Whiteside will be 27.
• Among 174 players with enough at-bats to qualify, the only three who entered the weekend hitting below .200, oddly enough, had combined for 905 career home runs: Giancarlo Stanton (193), Prince Fielder (315) and Mark Teixeira (397).
But unlike the other two, Stanton is in his prime, and his numbers entering this weekend series were shocking and horrifying: 1 for 22 with 14 strikeouts with two outs and runners in scoring position, and 17 for 163 (.104) and 109 strikeouts when there are two strikes on him.
Stanton, who sat out 10 of the Marlins’ first 60 games, is pacing about 20 strikeouts behind Mark Reynolds’ all-time single-season strikeout record (223, in 2009).
Privately, the Marlins insist they aren’t overly considered and believe this is simply a slump. The Marlins have not considered asking him to go to the minors, and his permission would be needed anyway, because he has more than five years of big-league service.
• The Marlins have been poking around on veteran relievers, but one person who spoke to them said they don’t much appealing to trade and one attractive piece (Class A outfielder Stone Garrett) is now sidelined indefinitely after being knifed in the thumb in Josh Naylor’s prank-gone-wrong.
• The Dolphins have Antrel Rolle and Louis Delmas on a list of safety options should they have an injury at the position or if Reshad Jones should surprisingly extend his contract protest into the season. Even a person close to Jones conceded the Dolphins seemingly have no incentive to re-do a deal that pays Jones $7.2 million and $7.1 million the next two seasons.
• Dolphins people believe linebacker Kiko Alonso (impressive so far, albeit not in full uniforms) will give the linebacking corps something they’ve lacked.
“He’s able to decipher things really fast and not bite on decoys,” Jelani Jenkins said. “He’s really good at just instinctually playing in the middle and kind of seeing the bigger picture. [Opposing offenses] don’t really know exactly who’s going to cover who, because we [Alonso and Jenkins] can kind of do both.”
• FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, before and during his speech to Seminoles fans in Coral Gables on Thursday, couldn’t stop raving about Mark Richt: “First time I met Mark was 1989; great human being and one heck of a coach. They’re going to win. It’s definitely going to be just as tough or even tougher [to recruit in South Florida now]. Mark is a great recruiter. Miami is going to have a very good team. Brad Kaaya will be a first-round pick.”
• Fisher said UM-FSU “is such a great rivalry, one of the great ones in college football that I wish we would have a permanent date.”
He suggests early to mid October; it’s Oct. 8 in Miami this year…
Fisher, incidentally, said he has “had inquiries the last couple years” from NFL teams seeking head coaches but hasn’t been tempted. “I’m content where I’m at. You never say never in this business.”
• At the position with its shakiest depth, UM feels good about its starters (Corn Elder, Sheldrick Redwine), with Braxton Berrios noting Redwine simply “gets it. He uses the technique and uses it well. If he gets beat on a release, I don’t see him getting beat on that same release again.”
The question is depth; Texas transfer Adrian Colbert –-- moved by UM from safety to cornerback (where he hadn’t played in a game since high school) --- “is going to be a good corner,” Berrios said Friday after graciously spending nearly two hours with kids at Holtz Children's Hospital in Miami. “He looks good. He’s an athlete, simply put. He can cover. He has speed. His technique is a little bit different from our guys. Obviously, that's something he'll learn.”…
As for the other unproven young corners (Michael Jackson, Terrance Henley, Ryan Mayes), Berrios and receiver Darrell Langham were most effusive about Jackson. “He looks great,” Berrios said. And UM also can use safety Jaquan Johnson to cover slot receivers.
• On Friday, UM's Sept. 17 game at Appalachian State was set for noon, with ESPN or ESPN2 televising. Appalachian State will visit UM in 2021. UM agreed to the home-and-home because it needed another 2016 non-conference opponent.