Dallas Mavericks

Mavericks draft Purdue center A.J. Hammons in the second round

Purdue 7-foot center A.J. Hammons averaged 15 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks last season.
Purdue 7-foot center A.J. Hammons averaged 15 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks last season. AP

Hassan Whiteside has moved to the top of the Dallas Mavericks’ free agent chart.

A 7-foot, 265-pound center with superstar capabilities, Whiteside will be the first player the Mavericks meet with when the NBA free agency period opens on June 30 at 11:01 p.m. CDT.

If the Mavericks are able to sign Whiteside, one of his teammates will be A. J. Hammons, who Dallas drafted 46th overall in Thursday’s NBA Draft. A 7-footer from Purdue, Hammons averaged 15 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks this past season for the Boilermakers.

Whiteside, who spent the past two seasons with the Miami Heat, has endured more than his share of ups and downs during his brief NBA career. Yet he appears poised to take off and become a giant in the middle for a franchise ready to fork over big bucks for his services.

And the Mavericks are ready to open the checkbook for the 27-year-old Whiteside, who is a

game-changer, a rebounder/defender/shot-blocker extraordinaire. He controls the paint better than anyone in the NBA. This past season for the Heat, Whiteside averaged 14.2 points and 11.8 rebounds, and also led the NBA with 3.7 blocks a game.

On Nov. 1 in a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Whiteside collected 22 points, 14 rebounds and 10 blocks. It was his second-career triple-double as he became the second player to have multiple triple-doubles that consisted of points, rebounds and blocks.

But Whiteside didn’t stop there, as he picked up his third career triple-double with 19 points, 17 rebounds and 11 blocks during a Jan. 15 game against Denver.

Whiteside also had 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocks in 27 minutes off the bench during a Feb. 5 game against Charlotte.

The Mavericks have been victims of Whiteside, who collected 10 points, nine rebounds and five blocks in only 17 minutes against them on Feb. 3. Whiteside also registered 25 points and 19 rebounds against Dallas on Jan. 1.

But that’s not all.

Last year against the Mavericks, Whiteside had 16 points and 24 rebounds in 29 minutes in one game.

Whiteside is so effective on defense that he alters so many shots and also makes players think twice about even trying to drive to the hole for a field-goal attempt. He is one of the game’s best intimidators, and is such a terminator than opposing players think he’s in the paint when he’s not even there.

However, like some players, Whiteside comes with a few warts. After being taken 33rd overall by Sacramento in 2010, he only played one game for the Kings as a rookie and only 18 in his second season.

From there, Whiteside played for several National Basketball Development League teams, and also made a couple of pit stops in the Chinese NBL and Lebanese Basketball League.

Whiteside also was suspended one game last year by the NBA for a blindside hit on Boston’s Kelly Olynyk. Whiteside also was suspended for one game by the NBA this past season for elbowing San Antonio’s Boban Marjanovic.

But with so much at stake from a financial standpoint, Whiteside apparently cleaned up his up act in the second half of last season and is in position to cash in big-time with a potential maxed-out contract.

Dwain Price: 817-390-7760, @dwainprice

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