Hassan Whiteside has as image problem. In 2010, the 7-footer was a 20-year-old freshman at Marshall and relatively unknown to most of the NBA scouts. By the end of that season, Whiteside led the NCAA in blocked shots with 182 swats, earning him the C-USA Defensive Player of the Year award.
During this transitional time, scouts scrutinized Whiteside's work ethic, basketball IQ, and overall ability to play within a complicated NBA system.
Despite the questions, his 13 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots per game in college spoke volumes for his abilities on the court. Due to this new attention, Whiteside opted to use the one-and-done rule to enter the 2010 NBA Draft. He was selected in the second round by the Sacramento Kings.
Over the course of the next two seasons in The Association, Whiteside appeared in 19 games. He averaged 1.5 points and 2 rebounds through 6 minutes per contest.
During those two seasons, Whiteside was assigned to multiple stints with the Kings' NBA D-League affiliate - the Reno Bighorns. Last season as a Bighorn, Whiteside averaged 8 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 blocked shots in 19 minutes per game.
Questions about basketball IQ swirled again, yet teams were drawn to Whiteside's obvious physical abilities. His 7'7" wingspan makes him an ideal shot blocker, rebounder, and defensive weapon in the paint.
On the offensive end of the floor, he has great feel around the rim and finishes strong. Whiteside is also a perimeter threat who can knock down the occasional shot from behind the arc and is accurate from mid-range as well.
These abilities led to looks from the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Miami Heat in their respective training camps prior to this season. Whiteside was eventually selected from the D-League player pool by the Sioux Falls Skyforce in anticipation of Jarvis Varnado receiving a NBA call-up.
In his first four games with Sioux Falls, Whiteside has averaged 13 points, 9 rebound, and 2 blocks in 17 minutes per game. He's sporting a ridiculous PER of 34.09, and has made 66% of his shots thus far.
Most importantly, Whiteside has looked more alert on the defensive end of the floor. His presence in the paint made a noticeable different during his Christmas Day efforts against Iowa. During that game, he logged 2 steals and 3 blocked shots. He also added 17 points and 15 rebounds in 23 minutes played.
On the offense, the big man is playing his way into Coach Joel Abelson's system. He does not look lost like past pundits have claimed.
Whiteside's past questions will be hard to shake. However, Sioux Falls seems to be reaping the early rewards of objectively evaluating his talent and not falling for perceptions.
This weekend will be a true test for Whiteside, as Sioux Falls plays two games against Maine. Fab Melo is currently on assignment from the Celtics and has been putting up triple double performances in recent contests as member of the Red Claws.