Dion Waiters was the 4th pick in the 2012 NBA draft. Five years later he is having the best season of his career which is timely because Waiters is a free agent expecting a raise much larger than his current $2.8 million dollar salary. The amount the Heat want to pay will either attach them as buyers for Waiters or sellers.
With his productivity Waiters has manipulated the market on his behalf which will land the Heat in uncomfortable waters. Are they willing to be outbid for Waiters services? Do they have a Waiters number and anything after that they are willing to let him walk despite his career year. That, in itself, is debatable. Is this that one special season players have? Or, is there consistency so teams including the Heat wanting Waiters services can count on this level of production?
In 2017 Waiters has played 29 games and has scored in double digits 23 times. Between January 13th and March 1st, he scored double figures 18 games in a row, including back to back 33 point games and 6 games of 20+ points. He is in the midst of another double digit scoring run, 6 games in a row. Before his last output against the Pelicans of 14 points, he dropped 29 points against the Cavaliers, 24 points against the Hornets, 20 points against the Raptors and 20 points against the Pacers. The Heat were 3-1 in those games.
Waiters is playing more minutes than he has ever played, is taking more shots, making more shots, is nearly a 40% three point shooter, has a career high in rebounds, assists, blocks, and points. His offensive rating is consistent to what he has been doing his entire career, meaning nothing to write home about and his defensive rating…well let’s put it this way, Waiters is not known for his shut down ability. His PER this season of 14.4 is a career high but not the PER of a max contract.
So what is Waiters going to demand?
He has a positive plus/minus on the year but he is way underwater on the road when measuring offensive/defensive rating. When the Heat win, Waiters averages 18 points off of 46% shooting and 43% from three. When they lose, he is miserable. 12 points, 35% and 32% from three which means the Heat are dependent on Waiters to be an efficient scorer to win. His agent can spin it as Waiters is showing his value, his offensive game propels the Heat forward. Or the Heat can spin it that Waiters is hit or miss. He was a streaky shooter his rookie year and nothing has changed regarding his consistency.
But this has changed for Dion Waiters.
All eyes are on him. No LeBron James to refract the sun. No Russell Westbrook. He is the 25th ranked shooting guard when measuring impact (Real Plus-Minus). Last year he was ranked 50th. But. How much does 25th say you are worth when Nick Young is ranked 20th?
Pat Riley has a history of hard balling players in negotiations and undervaluing the idea that players want to leave his perfect nest. But he has a very clinical decision in front of him. He has to decide Dion Waiters value in relation to his worth. His value is what Waiters has proven this year, what he means to the team and his worth is what Waiters realistic price is on the open market. Usually, for the non superstar player, those are two very different figures and Riley has to come up with a number he thinks is fair. Though what he thinks is fair isn’t in relation to Waiters but the Heat franchise.
The Heat have three max deals on the roster, counting Chris Bosh. With Bosh’s number, they are committed to $94 million next season. So what to do about Waiters?
In free agency, for a player like Waiters, the market determines the price. You will know very quickly if his agent has outpriced the demand. If that is the case, Waiters will be sitting around like J.R. Smith was sitting around last year.
Pat Riley has to determine if some unnamed player can do what Waiters is doing now at a cheaper price. If not, what you see this year is more than likely what you see next year with Dion Waiters as the Heat’s #1 closer.
photo via llananba