Throughout the 2017-18 season, the Miami Heat decided to alter their offensive system from a pick and roll offense to more of a dribble handoff system. Before this season, a perimeter player would bring the ball up to the three-point line and then Hassan Whiteside would set a screen. Once the pick was set the perimeter player would pay attention to his defender to determine the next course of action, for instance, if the defender went under the screen, the perimeter player would go over it and take the wide-open shot. On the other hand, if the defender went over the screen, the perimeter player would go over it as well and drive towards the basket where he would score or pass the ball to the player next to him or to the perimeter depending on whether he was double teamed or not.
However, at the beginning of the season, the Heat started to run more dribble handoff plays. For instance, a perimeter player will bring the ball up to the three-point line and passes it to a player in the mid to high post area. Once this happens, the player will hold the ball until the perimeter player comes back to him or the player standing in the corner comes to him; to start a dribble handoff sequence. As soon as one of the players gets close him, that player will hand the ball off and stand in place as a screener. After that happens, the player who has the ball will go over the screen to start the process of the pick and roll again. Unfortunately, Hassan Whiteside would sometimes be the player in the mid to high post area waiting to get the ball from the perimeter player. Once Whiteside received the ball, he would have a difficult time completing the dribble handoff because the opposing team knows that he can’t dribble the ball. As a result, the defender of the perimeter player would stick his arm between the perimeter player and the basketball preventing the play from happening. Due to this, Hassan was forced to keep the ball and take a bad shot, make a bad pass or put the ball on the ground leading to a turnover. As a result of this, Whiteside saw a significant reduction in his minutes going from 32.6 to 25.3 minutes per game.
Therefore, the Miami Heat should explore the possibility of trading Hassan Whiteside to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for DeMarcus Cousins. There are several reports that the Pelicans are looking to re-sign Cousins to a short-term extension. According to Zach Lowe of ESPN, “the Pelicans have broached internally the idea of offering Cousins a two- or three-year deal at less than the max, per sources familiar with the discussions.” One would assume that the short-term extension is related to the uncertainty about how he will return from the torn Achilles injury. Furthermore, the team has performed better without him because the injury gave head coach Alvin Gentry the freedom to go back to the pick and roll offense. Before the injury, the team ran a lot of post-ups and dribble handoffs to cater to the strengths of DeMarcus. Catering to the strengths of Cousins led the team to compile a 27-21 record, but since the injury, they’ve gone 25-13.
As a result, the trade would make sense for both parties because the Miami Heat system naturally emphasizes the strengths of Cousins. On the other hand, Hassan Whiteside can return to prominence in the pick and roll offense with the New Orleans Pelicans. Furthermore, Whiteside only has two years left on his contract at a total of 52 million dollars which would be a short-term commitment for the team. Lastly, the Heat should be one of the few teams who would take on DeMarcus Cousins without asking for an asset to compensate for the injury as they want to get rid of Hassan.