If the Miami Heat can’t get the best from Dion Waiters, is there another team across the NBA landscape that’s willing to take on that challenge?
Dion Waiters became a fan favorite of the Miami Heat when he spearheaded a remarkable turnaround to salvage what was looking like a lost 2016-17 season, prompting Pat Riley to award him a four-year deal worth $52 million the following summer.
Since that career-best season, Waiters’ charming arrogance has soured. The production has gone down and the injuries have piled up, resulting in 90 missed games over the last two seasons.
That image change is what happens when the talk occurs far more than the walk, but Waiters also hasn’t done himself any favors with the way he’s handled a demotion on a Heat team that’s asked less of him compared to when he first arrived.
This while Waiters was suspended for the season opener in part due to a public display of frustration on social media as well as his recent adventure that led to a 10-game suspension from an edible-induced panic attack on the team’s plane.
He has long been a source of entertainment for NBA fans. The irrational-confidence guys usually are, oozing a level of swagger and inner belief that emits a superstar aura without the accompanying production.
Once that facade is stripped away and you begin to analyze how Waiters functions within an NBA team, he becomes a potential League Pass tune-in on the occasional hot night, but not the guy any sensible front office would put trust in.
His efficiency from beyond the arc varies by the season. He rarely looks to get others involved or provides much resistance at the defensive end.
Waiters is strictly about getting buckets, but even that comes with its baggage.
During the 2018-19 season, 93 players attempted more than 10 shots per game. Waiters was dead last among them in free-throw attempts with just 1.0 a night, opting instead for the ill-advised long 2-pointers that have contributed to his measly 41.2 career field goal percentage.
He’s a career 13.2 points per game scorer, but carries himself in the same manner as Kevin Durant or James Harden. Sure, it’s charming when he’s given free rein to shoot at will with little to no consequences on a middling squad, but what competitive team wants that type of player, one who won’t sit silent if he fails to get his way?
The Heat have one of the most well-respected cultures in the NBA. It’s what helped Waiters get into peak shape to earn his most recent contract. But even they have lost their grip trying to get Waiters to buy into an idea that doesn’t revolve around him anymore.
Only 27 years of age, there’s still plenty of time for him to carve out a niche in the league, even if it’s unlikely to be in Miami.
However, Waiters’ NBA tenure rests inside a ticking clock that speeds up with every instance of the individual being placed above the team. If he can’t learn to check that, his talent simply isn’t worth the trouble for even the most stable of organizations.