After the contract year to end all contract years, former Syracuse Orange guard Dion Waiters will hit the open market this summer (effective July 1).
For those that choose to ignore the NBA for reasons I’ll never agree with, Dion took a one-year deal worth less than $3 million last offseason, despite the potential to get more money and more years elsewhere. He bet on himself and it paid off in hilarious fashion. Dion was third on the Miami Heat, with 15.8 points per game, while adding 3.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per.
While still not overly efficient, he was the glue that held Miami together as they turned around a very rocky start to the season. When he was sidelined with an injury late in the year, the Heat faded from the playoff picture, proving his importance.
He also wrote this fantastic article, which you need to familiarize yourself with.
But now, after a strong campaign, he gets to reap the rewards. So, where might he be headed during the upcoming free agency period? We take some guesses:
At one point, Waiters expressed a desire to stick around this young Miami team, and the feeling was mutual from the Heat in May. With the shooting guard position still open on the roster, and over $30 million in cap space now that Chris Bosh’s salary won’t count on the books, this could easily get done. But it also hinges on who else Miami thinks they’re in the running for. If bigger names (like Blake Griffin?) come sniffing around, that could stall Waiters negotiations. It’s also unlikely Waiters sticks around to be a franchise’s backup option during free agency.
His hometown’s not the only thing that could draw Waiters back to Philadelphia now. The 76ers have an exciting young core, boatloads of cap space available and could very well be a playoff team in 2018 with the right couple veterans added. It would be fitting for him to bank his biggest NBA check yet with Philly, but we’ll see if they actually want him given what’s already on that roster.
Dion’s last go-around in New York state turned out pretty well, so perhaps he decides to give it another go and check in with the rebuilding Nets. Brooklyn’s another team with tons of cap space, and a need for a new face of the team now that Brook Lopez is gone. It’s not a perfect match, but they also may be willing to pay him the most money, so... this will at least warrant a conversation (it would also force the Nets to play D’Angelo Russell at point guard).
The Lakers have cleared space at the shooting guard spot, with Russell gone and Nick Young potentially off the books as well. If they want to set Lonzo Ball up for success at the point, adding a shooter like Waiters could be a fun proposition. L.A. has money to spend, and maybe in the best interest of Dion, they’re not looking for THE face of the franchise, either. The Lakers’ young team could use another shooter, and can pay, so this fits the bill -- though does he sort of just become replacement Swaggy P?
With Paul George likely on the way out, Indiana could use a replacement shooter, and maybe just an overall upgrade to C.J. Miles at the 2 as well. Whether George leaves or not, the Pacers will have money to spend. The need’s certainly there for his offensive talents, but will he fit in with the type of franchise the Pacers are -- and the culture around the fan base, which has put a premium on emphasizing the team vs. individual player in the last decade?
Many times before last season, I joked that my Knickerbockers would try to max out Waiters at some point in his career. Well, that time may just be now. It’ll take some work (likely including a trade of Carmelo Anthony), but for a franchise looking for help at the shooting guard spot, it seems like Dion’s a typical Knicks pursuit. They’ll likely have other priorities first, so would be unlikely to move quickly on any deal with him, however. And that might ultimately kill what would be the most obvious and hilarious mismatch between team management and player. You don’t want to root for this, for my sake or Dion’s.
Plenty more destinations to consider, clearly. And last week’s draft just started kicking up the dust around roster moves this offseason.
But ignoring some of the potential cap issues, where would you want to see Dion suit up for 2017-18?