PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Trail Blazers have traded for center Hassan Whiteside, sending Maurice Harkless and Meyers Leonard to the Miami Heat, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports.
Harkless was later rerouted to the Los Angeles Clippers as part of a four-team deal that sent All-Star Jimmy Butler from Philadelphia to Miami.
Whiteside, a 7-foot, 265-pound center, turned 30 earlier this month. He has a massive 7-7 wingspan and 9-5 standing reach. He'll make $27.1 million in the 2019-20 season, the final year of his contract.
Whiteside averaged 12.3 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks while playing just 23.3 minutes per game for the Heat last season.
He's averaged 14.1 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 27.2 minutes per game over the past five seasons in Miami. His best season was the 2015-16 campaign, when he averaged 14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game and was named second team All-Defense.
The following season, he averaged 17.0 points, led the NBA in rebounds with 14.1 per game and blocked 2.1 shots per contest.
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Last season, Whiteside lost his starting spot to Bam Adebayo. His 23.3 minutes per game last season was the lowest of his five seasons in Miami. Whiteside expressed displeasure with his reduced role in comments to the media or in social media posts.
"I don't think I'm a 20-minute guy," Whiteside told the Miami Herald in April. "I average what, 20 minutes? So I think I can play more and do more. So I definitely think what I bring to the game is at a high level for my position. You know, I led the league in categories that you would want a big man to lead the league in. I feel like I can keep doing that."
Whiteside has pointed to his per-36 numbers as an indication of what he could do if he was playing more than 20 minutes per game. Over the past two seasons, Whiteside averaged 19.4 points, 17.0 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per 36 minutes.
In Portland, Whiteside figures to be the starting center to begin the season and see a large increase in minutes. Blazers starting center Jusuf Nurkic is rehabbing from a broken leg and is expected to miss at least the first few months of the season, if not more.
Whiteside seemed happy about the trade in an exuberant video he posted to Instagram.
The Blazers pursued Whiteside in free agency in 2016, but he signed a four-year, $98 million deal with the Heat. He later said Portland was his second choice.
Harkless and Leonard are also in the final year of their contracts. Harkless will make $11.5 million and Leonard $11.3 million.
Harkless, 26, averaged 7.7 points and 3.8 rebounds in four seasons with the Blazers. Portland traded a lightly protected second-round pick to the Orlando Magic for Harkless in the summer of 2015.
The former St. John's star didn't play much to start his tenure in Portland but by the end of the 2015-16 season, he was starting at small forward for the Blazers. He signed a four-year, $40 million deal to stay in Portland that offseason.
Harkless' best season in Portland was the 2016-17 season, when he averaged 10 points, 4.4 rebounds and shot 35.1% from the 3-point line. But most of his time in Portland was plagued by inconsistency and an inability to consistently make outside shots. He shot 33.0% from 3 during his four seasons with the Blazers.
Leonard was drafted with the 11th overall selection of the 2012 NBA draft, five spots after the Blazers selected Damian Lillard. He never quite lived up to Blazers' fans expectations, averaging 5.6 points and 3.7 rebounds in his seven seasons with the team.
A low point game during a game in December 2017 when Blazers fans booed him during a home game. Leonard later said he battled depression and struggled with the vitriol Blazers fans directed at him during his career.
Leonard earned the love of the Blazers faithful in the end, though. He had a solid if unspectacular 2017-18 season, averaging 5.9 points and 3.8 rebounds while shooting 54.5% from the field and 45.0% from the 3-point line. And in the Western Conference finals, Leonard drew the start at center in the final two games and put on a show, averaging 23 points and 7.5 rebounds.
In Game 4, Leonard scored 30 points, including 25 in the first half, and added 12 rebounds, three assists and a block in 40 minutes. The sellout crowd at the Moda Center serenaded him with chants of "MEY-ERS LEON-ARD! MEY-ERS LEON-ARD! MEY-ERS LEON-ARD!"
After the game, Lillard, defended his longest-tenured teammate.
"Not just this year, but over the last seven years, a lot of people have had a lot to say about [Meyers] and what he doesn't do and all those things," Lillard said. "As NBA players, they get online and they say things, and they don't really know what goes on behind closed doors. They say things without knowing -- knowing, but without taking into consideration that we're people, and we go home to families and friends and kids like everybody else, and they just beat you down, beat you down, and I think he's been through that.
"So to see him have a moment like he had tonight, and being here with him from Day 1, nobody was more happy for him than I was, and it was a great night for him."
The Blazers had five free agents this offseason. They re-signed sharp-shooting wing Rodney Hood, and watched Al-Farouq Aminu sign with the Orlando Magic, Enes Kanter sign with the Boston Celtics, and Seth Curry sign with the Mavericks.
The only remaining free agent for Portland is Jake Layman. The Blazers offered him a $1.9 million qualifying offer, making him a restricted free agent, so the Blazers will have the right to match any contract offer he signs with another team.
After the Blazers signed Mario Hezonja on Sunday and traded for Whiteside on Monday, Portland has 13 players on its roster, including Layman. So the Blazers aren't done. They'll likely add one or two more players before the offseason is over.
TRAIL BLAZERS ROSTER
PG: Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons
SG: CJ McCollum, Kent Bazemore, Gary Trent Jr.
SF: Rodney Hood, Mario Hezonja, Nassir Little
PF: Zach Collins, Jake Layman (RFA)
C: Hassan Whiteside, Jusuf Nurkic, Skal Labissiere
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