Hassan Whiteside has the opportunity to take out all of the frustrations on the team that rejected him several times during the opening round 2016 NBA playoffs.
As the 7-foot center was scratching his way into the league, Whiteside tried out with Charlotte, his hometown team, on several occasions but was continually snubbed.
Eventually, Whiteside managed to land a roster spot in Miami and has evolved into one of the most complete players at his position in the league.
A year ago, the former Marshall star thrived in his 48 appearances, even registering a 14 point, 13 rebound, 12 block performance in less than 25 minutes during a victory over the Bulls. The triple-double was the first featuring blocks in the NBA in two seasons and his 12 rejections set a single-game franchise record.
For all of his talents, his penchant for drawing technical fouls and ejections created a paradox prior to the final year of his contract.
Even after posting 11.8 points, 10 rebounds and 2.6 blocks a night, questions surrounding Whiteside were abound.
Could he replicate the numbers for an entire season? Would persistent injuries derail him? Would Miami deal him at the trade deadline?
Whiteside continually provided answers, as he was not only the most dominant shot blocker in the NBA this season, but he swatted the most shots in eight years.
The 26-year-old became the first player in over eight years to reject at least 250 shots, as he swatted 269 shots and his 3.7 blocks marked the highest average since the 2000-01 campaign.
In 73 appearances, he rejected 10 or more shots on three occasions, matching the number of times he was held without a block.
Opponents shot just 46.9 percent at the rim when being defended by Whiteside, more than eight points below the league average.
Along with his shot blocking prowess, Whiteside helped Miami continually close out possessions by collecting defensive rebounds. His 8.6 defensive rebounds a night ranked as the fifth highest in the league and according to NBA.com, he gathered in 67.5 percent of the available defensive rebounds to him, one of the highest percentages in the league.
For all of his efforts, Whiteside finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting, as San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard claimed the honor for the second year in a row, beating out Draymond Green of the Warriors by 126 points to win the award.
Despite leading the league in blocks, block percentage and ranking seventh in defensive box plus/minus (higher than Leonard or Green) Whiteside managed to gather just 81 total points in Defensive Player of the Year voting.
The 33rd overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft may have been snubbed as the top Defensive Player of the Year, but another award could be within his grasp: the Most Improved Player.
In nearly ever aspect of his game, Whiteside managed to make gigantic strides.
He proved capable of handling the workload of an entire NBA season, as six of the nine games he missed were the result of a knee injury suffered in late January.
Anytime he was on the floor, he found a way to consistently produce, as he totaled 41 double-doubles and his three triple-doubles tied him with James Harden and LeBron James for the sixth most in the NBA.
The 11.8 rebounds he averaged tied Dwight Howard for the third most in the league and he finished the year with 53 performances with 10 or more rebounds.
Questions about his maturity resurfaced after he threw an elbow during a game against San Antonio in February, resulting in his third ejection in 93 career games, but he managed to keep himself under control for a majority of the year.
When the regular season ended, he was whistled for just four technical fouls, a number surpassed by 47 other players in the league.
What makes Whiteside deserving of the Most Improved Player award were the adjustments he was able to make offensively since the All-Star break.
During his 28 games played following the mid-season break, Whiteside posted averages of 17.5 points, 13.3 rebounds, 3.4 blocks per game and even managed to increase his free throw shooting nearly 20 percent, jumping from a dismal 55.2 percent during the first half of the season to 75 percent following the All-Star game.
He even added a jump shot to his offensive repertoire. While slamming the ball through the rim was his most common way to score the ball — as he ranked fourth in the NBA with 149 dunks on the year — he started to drift away from the paint.
On attempts between 10 and 16 feet away from the rim, Whiteside is converting 43.9 percent of his attempts, a better percentage thanAnthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Al Horford this season.
Whiteside continued his domination on both ends of the floor during his post season debut Sunday afternoon, torching the Hornets for 23 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.
Charlotte certainly regrets passing on Whiteside and during his first full season in the NBA, he has emerged as one of the most dominant centers in the league as he continually rounds out his game.