Breakout star has an awesome perspective on becoming one of the best NBA free agents

Lakers Targeting Hassan Whiteside in Free Agency

Hassan Whiteside has become one of the NBA's best centers, seemingly out of nowhere.

Just two years ago, the 27-year-old big-man looked finished in the NBA. After two quiet, disappointing seasons with the Sacramento Kings, Whiteside was demoted to the D-League, and then moved overseas to play in China and Lebanon.

Then, in 2014, the Heat signed him to a small, two-year deal as a reclamation project of sorts. Whiteside made the most of the opportunity.

SEE MORE: 21 bucket-list items for every sports fan

When given the playing time, the 7-foot Whiteside suddenly became a double-double machine, swallowing up rebounds, scoring on easy baskets, and swatting opponents' shots away from the rim. In 2015-16, Whiteside averaged 14 points, 11 rebounds, and an NBA-best 3.7 blocks per game while shooting over 60% from the field.

The gaudy numbers, combined with his upside and athleticism, have made Whiteside one of the premier free agents this offseason. Days before free agency begins (players and teams can begin talking on July 1), Whiteside spoke to reporters and provided an awesome perspective on negotiating what will likely be a giant contract.

"I find it flattering, because in my past, I was trying to call those teams, and now it's the other way around," Whiteside said (via ESPN's Michael Wallace). "It's a flattering experience, and I'm thankful for this opportunity."

According to Wallace, the Heat have a slight advantage in re-signing Whiteside, with the ability to offer him a max. contract worth $98 million over four years. That would give Whiteside a yearly salary of about $22 million - a significant raise over the $990,000 he made last season.


Best NBA players of all time
See Gallery
Best NBA players of all time

25. Scottie Pippen

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

24. Chris Paul

(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

23. Jason Kidd

 (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

22. Kevin Durant

(Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)

21. Steve Nash

(Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)

20. Karl Malone

(Photo by Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images)

19. Kevin Garnett

(Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)

18. Isiah Thomas

(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

17. Charles Barkley

(Photo by Brian Drake/NBAE via Getty Images)

16. Dirk Nowitzki

 (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

15. Moses Malone

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/NBAE/Getty Images)

14. Jerry West

(Photo by Vernon Biever/NBAE via Getty Images)

13. Oscar Robertson

(Photo by Vernon Biever/NBAE via Getty Images)

12. Julius Erving

(Photo by Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images)

11. Kobe Bryant

 (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

10. Hakeem Olajuwon

(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

9. Bill Russell 

(Photo by Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images)

8. Wilt Chamberlain

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

5. Larry Bird

(Photo by Tom Berg/WireImage)

4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

(Photo by Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images)

3. LeBron James

(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

2. Magic Johnson

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/ NBAE/ Getty Images)


It's not the first time Whiteside has hinted at his wild journey to NBA prominence. Following his sudden breakout with the Heat in 2014-15, Whiteside noted in a postgame interview that not long ago, he had been working out at the YMCA, trying to get private workouts with NBA teams.

As Whiteside noted on Sunday, he'll explore all of his options. Though the Heat can pay him slightly more than any team, he's only one part of what figures to be a busy offseason in Miami.The Heat also plan to chase Kevin Durant, and they must settle on a new deal with Dwyane Wade. These two pieces of business could push Whiteside to the backburner, meaning he could bolt Miami. Whiteside hinted at this on Sunday.

"I really don't think it's about loyalty," Whiteside said of signing a new contract. "I think it's just about [finding] the best situation for myself. I didn't say [Miami] wasn't the best situation, but we're going to see what happens. It's not like I'm really counting the Heat out or counting on another team. It's just open."

Regardless of where he ends up, Whiteside is one of the feel-good stories in the NBA, a player who worked himself back into the folds, and he'll reap the rewards this July.

Follow AOL Sports on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Read Full Story

From Our Partners