Three centers linked to replace Hassan Whiteside at the Miami Heat

Hassan Whiteside could be one of the hottest properties this offseason if he chooses to enter free agency, with his contract expiring this summer. The center recently enjoyed the most prolific season of his NBA career and has since been linked with moves to the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers.

After departing the Sacramento Kings in 2012 having enjoyed two less-than-average seasons, Whiteside spent a further two years playing in the D-Leagues and overseas.

He joined the Miami Heat in 2014 and averaged ten rebounds and 11.8 points in his first season. He went on to achieve a career-high 14.2 points per game this campaign, whilst also adding 11.8 boards and 3.7 steals.

The 27-year-old earned just under a million dollars last season, but will reportedly seek a max contract in his next deal. Since being eliminated in the semifinal of the Eastern Conference playoffs, there have been plenty of rumors surrounding a potential replacement for Whiteside, should he seek his desires pay-cheque elsewhere.

Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard is a 12-year NBA veteran, having been drafted aged just 18 | Scott Halleran - Getty Images
 

It's widely expected that Dwight Howard will opt-out of his contract with the Houston Rockets this summer, and thus enter his second free agency in three years. The center will look for a bumper max contract, having turned 30 last December.

Howard has been one of the best defensive players in the league over the course of his 12-year career, having been drafted straight from high school in 2004.

The center has averaged 11.8 rebounds and 17.8 points over the course of his career but averaged his lowest points return last season (13.7) since his rookie season playing for the Orlando Magic (12.0). 

It's been reported at times this season than the six-foot-eleven man has had on-court friction with shooting guard James Harden, and could depart the Rockets to become a dominant squad leader once again.

Howard has also been linked with a move back to the Lakers amongst others, meaning the Heat will have firm competition for the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

Al Horford

This year was the first in Al Horford's career in which he played in all 82 regular-season games | Noah Graham - NBAE/Getty Images
 

Another man entering free agency this summer, Al Horford's departure could be part of a summer shake-up for the Atlanta Hawks. Point guard Jeff Teague has also been linked with trades to the likes of the Philadelphia 76ers, whilst Horford has attracted interest from the Celtics as well.

The 30-year-old, who has spent his entire eight-year NBA career with the Hawks, averaged 15.2 points per game this season, on top of 7.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and a career-high 79.8 percent free throw conversion.

Horford, who can also play as a power forward, is known for his aggressive dunks in transition, and a good mid-range shot conversion. The four-time NBA All-Star could play a leading role for the Heat, who also boasted an impressive defensive record over the course of the regular season.

The Hawks have been renowned for their team play as their finished fourth in the Eastern Conference, one spot below the Miami Heat.

Joakim Noah

Joakim Noah was the ninth pick of the 2007 draft | Mike DiNovo - USA TODAY Sports
 

Joakim Noah has enjoyed a steady fall from grace since winning the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year award, meaning a change of scenery could do the 31-year-old good.

The center averaged 7.2 points per game over the course of the 2014/15 season, a five-year low, before falling out of favor in the year just gone. Reports of miscommunications with new coach Fred Hoiberg as well as the rise of Nikola Mitrovic saw Noah start just two games over the entirety of the 2015/16 regular season.

The French international will be available via free agency this summer, having all-but-declared his intention to end his nine-year affiliation with the Chicago Bulls.

The three-time NBA Champions are reportedly in the driving seat to sign the two-time NBA All-Star, whilst the Minnesota Timberwolves are also linked with a move for the man.

Despite struggling in recent years, Noah's high-energy play on the backcourt, as well as his keen eye for a pass, would still make him a top addition for a playoff side like the Heat. 

Whilst Whiteside could yet re-sign with Miami, there's clearly plenty of options across the league that could join Dwyane Wade on the court next season.

VAVEL Logo