Dion Waiters, Yes or No?

Heat Free Agents: Udonis Haslem, James Johnson, Luke Babbitt

2016-17 Heat Weaknesses: 30th: Free Throw Percentage. 26th:  Free Throw Attempts, Small Forward Scoring. 25th: Starters Points. 23rd: Fast Break Points.  22nd: Assists, Steals. 21st: Scoring, Pace, Frontcourt Points. 20th: Power Forward Scoring.

2016-17 Heat Strengths 3rd: Blocks, 3-Point Defense. 5th: Opponent Points, Defensive Rating. 7th: Bench Points, Field Goal Percentage (Defense). 9th: Point Guard Scoring. 10th: Shooting Guard Scoring.

2017-18 Heat (3) Largest Contracts: Chris Bosh $25,289,390. Hassan Whiteside $23,775,506. Goran Dragic $17,000,000.

Player Options: Josh McRoberts, Dion Waiters, Willie Reed

The Dwyane Wade hero replacement, Dion Waiters, camouflaged a myriad of issues that kept the Miami Heat from being contenders in the Eastern Conference. Most of their shortcomings were on the offensive side of the ball. Once Erik Spoelstra restructured the team towards three point shooting, it was hit or miss with very few fastbreak easy basket opportunities. The Heat were 22nd in assists, nearly identical to the year before. But they were 12th in three point attempts; the year before they were 28th. It had a slight impact on their pace: 25th in 2015-16, 21st this year.  There is no greater mediocrity scenario than a team that doesn’t move the ball and plays slow and takes a lot of threes.

But let’s talk Dion Waiters. He is screaming from the rooftops that he wants to be in Miami.  What he really wants is to stay in Miami and get paid and ink a four or five year deal. Extract the emotion of the season and the Dion Waiters entertainment factor and how he created on his own 2.79 wins for the Heat (Real Plus-Minus) which is a slightly higher number than Dwyane Wade created for the Bulls (2.56).

He had a great year but the Heat didn’t make the playoffs so how to measure his impact? He only played 46 games or to put it another way, he missed 42% of the season and it was the most important part, the stretch run when pressure meets execution. So how accurate are his numbers?

He had a career high in shots taken and tied his career high for shots made. With all the Waiters hysterics, he only shot 42% from the field. He is a streaky shooter you can count on and one  who can go cold real fast. That said, he shot the ball better this year than in any year of his career except his second year in the league. His three ball was a career high, and nearly cracked the 40% plateau. He was an awful free throw shooter, the worst of his career. He’s never been a rebounding guard ala Russell Westbrook but he passed the ball this season for 4.3 assists. His offensive rating was mediocre at 101 but it was the first time he cracked an OR of 100 and his defensive rating was the third worst of his career. You know what Waiters brings at this stage of the game. The question is what is he worth?

$14 million, similar to J.R. Smith of the Cavs? $16 million? Waiters was a disaster inside the foul line. 29% on shots 3-10 feet. 23% on shots 10-16 feet. He is the analytics poster boy. Threes and rim finishes but he only finished 50% at the rim.  He only went to the free throw line 2.8 times so he isn’t an attacking player.

The question here is about value. What value does he bring the Heat? Then the question becomes, what is he worth given that value? How much does that value translate into dollars and cents? On the open market, what would Waiters bring? All of it is complicated by the balloon sized contract of Chris Bosh. Getting it off the books, the Heat could absorb a Dion Waiters overpay. But if doctors rule in July that Bosh can play again and the Heat have to absorb yet another bad contract, it makes their life difficult. They need efficient scorers. And a couple of more playmakers. And cap friendly deals.

As for the rest of the team. Despite Hassan Whiteside’s production at the rim, the Heat were 19th in defensive rebounding. Like Waiters, Goran Dragic is a miserable defender. James Johnson is the best jump shooter they have going and he too is out for more money.  Whiteside does what he is paid to do but he needs talent in the frontcourt which is where a chance to woo a player like Blake Griffin comes in. Except for that Bosth contract. It hangs over the organizations head like a virus you can’t escape.

Once again, Spoelstra demonstrated how talented a coach he is. The Heat, without Waiters were almost there, nearly in the playoffs. Spoelstra, up for Coach of the Year, earned his stripes this year with what he did after Wade. Like Brad Stevens, he is brilliant in coaching the NBA’s middle class, getting them to believe in themselves and compete. He needs a couple of stars now.  Riley has to figure out, how do we get there?

And what to pay Dion Waiters, a player who will never be an All-Star but who wins games, entertains and keeps the fans interested.


photo via llananba