Dion Waiters has agreed to a one-year, $2.9 million deal with the Miami Heat, according to the Associated Press. He will sign with Miami’s Room Exception.
He’ll join a Miami team that is trying to replace Dwyane Wade, who bolted for the Bulls this summer after being unhappy with the Heat’s offer. Miami will enter the season with a backcourt of Waiters, Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson.
That Waiters had to settle for such a low salary number in a marketplace where major contracts are being handed to reserves is telling. The 24-year-old guard was a restricted free agent until Oklahoma City rescinded his qualifying offer to create more cap space.
That said, Waiters didn’t help himself during his contract year last season. He posted a career low in points per game while shooting 40 percent from the floor during the regular season. The Thunder were much better when he wasn’t on the court, which explains why Waiters couldn’t claim the starting shooting guard spot despite competing with limited, one-way players. For most of the year, it seemed like the former fourth overall pick was going to disappoint once again.
Yet there were small signs of progress, such as his mark of 36 percent shooting from beyond the arc and flashes of competent defensive play, which translated into a solid performance in the playoffs. Waiters got more minutes in the postseason as the Thunder went small more often and he actually helped Oklahoma City. He shot 37 percent from beyond the arc, moved the ball instead of holding it and defended bigger players with physicality. It was ultimately not enough to get the Thunder to the NBA Finals, nor was it enough to help his stock in free agency.
While it seems Waiters is finally maturing, he has a ways to go before he can be considered among the league’s best sixth men or a viable starter. He’s still prone to bad decisions on offense, relying too much on a mid-range game that is mediocre. When he’s focused, he can be a solid on-ball defender but his effort wanes and he can get lost off the ball. His playmaking instincts never really improved, so he can’t really run an offense, even in a pinch.
At this point he’s a good spot-up shooter with some off-the-bounce creativity who can sop up minutes and play passable defense. His best asset is his youth, as he’s still just 24 years old. If he continues to improve as a shooter, starts to take pride in his ability to contain wings and cuts down on mistakes, he could be a good rotation piece for the Heat.
If he does those things, he will be set to cash in next summer. If.