Here’s something you might not know about Dion Waiters. He has scored the 7th most points in his lottery class (2012). His ppg among lottery teammates is 6th best. However, Waiters has played the least amount of games. Only 2012 lottery pick Kendall Marshall has played fewer games than Waiters; Marshall is out the league. Those in front of Waiters on the ppg ledger are who you would expect. #1 pick Anthony Davis. #3 pick Bradley Beal. #6 pick Damian Lillard. #7 pick Harrison Barnes. #9 pick Andre Drummond. Waiters has managed to do more with less. Waiters has also managed to be messy about his career.
Waived and looking for a job, the natural inclination is to pair him with the Lakers who are in need of a secondary ball handler when LeBron James goes to the bench. That’s not exactly Waiters thing. He scores. He’s not a play maker. To his detriment, he can let his emotions get the best of him. Discipline isn’t his strength nor is the mental part of the game. But he has a streaky nature about him.
One of the reasons that Waiters is even being considered for a contending team is the success Dwight Howard has had in a year of redemption. Howard was given every opportunity to succeed but only if Howard was willing to follow a particular script. Fill a role. Do what the team needs. Forget about your stardom fantasies. Work harder than everyone not named LeBron James. Surprisingly, Howard is one of the reasons the Lakers have enviable chemistry. He accepted his role on the team with a flourish. The Lakers were the only team interested in handing Howard a lifeline. He took it. He’s in the Most Improved Conversation. He won the bet that Howard would be a train wreck.
If the Lakers do indeed sign Dion Waiters, he will have to accept the Howard-esque role of doing what the team needs and nothing more.
But Waiters, the baller, is a far cry from Dwight Howard the future Hall of Famer. Howard was Defensive Player of the Year three times. He led his team to a NBA Finals appearance. In the midst of his popularity, he amassed over 3 million All-Star votes. He was the number one draft pick.
The gifted and talented can adjust their game easier than 97% of the NBA. Part of their talent is the ability to immerse themselves in the moment. They can narrow down. They can disown part of themselves for the greater good. But the average NBA player can only do what he knows how to do and nothing more. Nothing less.
Dion Waiters game has not eroded. He’s a three point shooter who has a streaky sense about him. He plays hard. Miami filled an emotional need for Waiters. Chris Bosh was hurt and Dwyane Wade was in Chicago so Waiters could be the star. He could close games.
If the Lakers take the Waiters leap, Waiters would have to accept a reduced role without having the Dwight Howard self-inflicted wounds. The Houston failure. The Atlanta failure. The D.C. injury year.
Waiters hasn’t failed in his career. While he may not have lived up to what we think the 4th pick in the 2012 draft should be, Waiters has pretty much delivered on his talent. He’s not exceptional. He’s not a bum. He’s a good player when his mind is right.
Can he manage his emotions? I’ve heard people compare him to Antonio Brown. That’s doing a little extra. Waiters doesn’t hurt others, just himself. Is Los Angeles a place that he can handle? So many distractions. So much media. The expectations are through the roof.
The Lakers have been drama free all year and Waiters is attracted to drama. Laker chemistry is a big part of their success. They have to be careful about who they let into the club.
What the Lakers have going for them is team leadership. Before Dwight Howard came aboard the gang of three had to do their own interview. Rajon Rondo, Kyle Kuzma, and JaVale McGee had to look Howard in the eye and see if he was sincere. Howard passed their test. Waiters will get the same treatment.
If he passes is anyone’s guess.