NBA All-Star voting can feel like a sport of its own. The Players’ Tribune asked a handful of current NBA players to go to the mat for a fellow player who’s never made an All-Star team.
You average one block per game in this league, and that’s a certain status. Joakim Noah, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kenneth Faried all average a block per game. A block per game means you’re a legit athletic presence, a guy teams have to account for on the court at all times. A block per is, “Yo, look out for this guy” level.
You average two blocks per game in this league, and that’s a certain status. DeAndre Jordan, Serge Ibaka and Pau Gasol all average two blocks per game. Two blocks per game means you’re feared, you’re dominant — you’re an All Defensive Team-quality disruptive force. Two blocks per is, “Yo, stay out the way of this guy” level.
You average three blocks per game in this league, and that’s a certain status. Anthony Davis averages two-and-a-half blocks per game — and he’s second in the NBA. Three blocks per game means you’ve had one of the 100 or so best seasons blocking shots — ever. Three blocks per is, “Yo … just, yo …” level.
Hassan Whiteside is averaging four blocks per game.
Just sit with that for a second.
Hassan is absolutely beasting it this season, and has been one of the most productive players in the entire league. Transcendent performance, night after night. But enough about his Snapchat.
No, I’m just messing around — in all seriousness, he really has been playing at an elite, elite level. And it starts with those blocks.
You know when you look at a box score and a stat just doesn’t look right? That’s usually either a really good thing or a really bad thing. And some of these block totals Hassan’s getting … man, they don’t look right. Take our game against the T-Wolves: 22 points (on 10-14 shooting), 14 rebounds … and 10 blocks. A triple-double — with blocks. That’s on that “wait, did the stat guy make a typo?” level of statline. But that’s the level Hassan’s been at, basically all year.
And yet I somehow think he’s still a little underrated. Hassan gets love, definitely, but I don’t think people fully appreciate just how game-changing his shot-blocking presence can be during the course of a game. It’s not even the blocks themselves. Most of the time, honestly, it’s just the idea of his blocks, the fear that a block might be coming, that is enough to tilt a play in our favor.
Like: I’ve seen really good teams overhaul entire offensive sets because of Hassan. I’ve seen world-class shooters sense Hassan in their periphery and rush up a quick one (they always miss). I’ve seen big-time dunkers hear Hassan’s footsteps and suddenly get shook, mid-air, and hit ’em with the fadeaway. I’m telling you: It’s crazy what teams are willing to do to avoid Hassan. And don’t get me wrong, I get it. I’d do it, too.
There’s a tendency, I think, to lump everyone with a shot blocking rep together into one big group. But this year, when you’re making your All Star choices, I’m going to ask that you reconsider. Because what Hassan is doing this season is flat-out next-level — and maybe the level after that. Again: Dude is averaging four blocks per game. In 29 minutes. Not many players in NBA history can touch that.
In 2016? No one can.
So, you know, it’s your vote, and do your thing. Vote for my guy or don’t. It’s cool. But if you do vote for another center, then my advice is to come strong when you click.
Otherwise, who knows, Hassan might block it.
He’s pretty much blocked everything else.