Dion Waiters Loving Himself, His Game and His Money

In the 2012 NBA Draft, Bradley Beal, the one year player out of Florida, was selected before Dion Waiters. Waiters had a successful career at Syracuse, was known nationally because of the coverage Syracuse gets and was thought to be the better pro just from the eye test. Beal was selected number three by the Wizards and Waiters was chosen number four. Damian Lillard was drafted two slots down from Waiters at number six. Both Beal and Lillard have amassed seasons scoring 20 or more points per game, and more importantly, have been significant in the playoffs, while Waiters has had an above average career as a role player.

2012 Draft Career Points Career FG%  Career Offensive Rating 2017-18 Salary
Bradely Beal #3 5,728 44.1% 107 $23,775,506
Dion Waiters #4 4,438 41.3% 98 $12,093,023
Damian Lillard #6 8,880 43.0% 113 $26,153,057

In the last year of his rookie deal, Dion Waiters was traded to the Thunder from the Cavs as LeBron wasn’t on board with Waiters. Waiters always lands on his feet though. He signed a two year deal with a player option with the Miami Heat during the 2016 summer.

Waiters had a great season, declined the option and signed a $52 million dollar deal. However you slice it, Waiters won the year. He signed a meager deal for $2.9 million and twelve months later netted four times that much.

The recurring narrative on Dion Waiters was a player who overvalued his talent. He was arrogant. He was selfish. He wasn’t a team player, but more importantly he wasn’t that good. He was an overreach as a lottery pick. He wasn’t a max talent. To his surprise, he was never going to be a superstar.

Waiters had a decent rookie year of 14 points a game but lacked efficiency as a scorer, 41.2%. His highest field goal percentage was during his second year 43.3%. Consistency was always a problem for Waiters. He would have stretches of making shots and then his game would go in the tank. He had the ego of a shooting guard but he didn’t have the humility nor the shot making game, and he was an average rebounder and ball mover.

In Miami this past season, Dion Waiters, sensing an opportunity, changed the narrative. He rebounded career high numbers, same with assists. His shooting can still be hit or miss; love it or not, Waiters is a streaky player.

Waiters brushed back all the shade about his game when the Heat played the Warriors and Waiters was the star. The Heat beat the Warriors because Waiters was consistent all the way through. As usual, his shot selection left a lot to be desired but that was splitting hairs because he made the tough shots, particularly down the stretch. In the last three minutes, he took five shots. He made two of them which pretty much falls within the Waiters efficiency, 40%. The first jumper he made gave the Heat a five point cushion. He missed his next two and made a clutch 25 footer to break a 102-102 tie. It was the game winner. Waiters, who loves when he is special, basked in the glow from the Heat fans but it was more than that. This is what Waiters always knew he was.

After the Warriors game, Waiters, who dropped 33 on the Dubs, shooting an eye-popping 65% and 75% from three, had a nice follow up game of 24 points, 55.6% and 66.7% from three against the Brooklyn Nets and another game winner. He followed that up with more games and more scoring. 19 points, 17 points, 20 points, 21 points, 12 points. It is exactly what the Heat needed from Waiters. They didn’t need him to be Kobe. Or Wade. They needed him to compliment Dragic on the perimeter and to feed Whiteside. He did that and then was injured. He only played in 46 games last season.

Waiters once said, “I’d rather go 0 for 30 than 0 for 9 because you go 0 for 9 that means you stopped shooting. That means you lost confidence.” Forget for a moment it was a straight rip off of Kobe Bryant commenting on how Deron Williams played against the Heat in the playoffs. It was a true Waiters moment, Waiters unplugged. However entertaining it was, talk like that will derail his upside if he doesn’t rein his inner Kobe in. He’s a career 41% shooter, not a 46% scorer like Bryant. He doesn’t have an array of moves. No jab step. No fadeaway. No two dribble pull up. No step back. He is a perimeter shot maker, a confident one who has yet to have a consistent 82 games so let’s dial it back a bit with all the loving on yourself.

But then again, Dion do you.

The Philly born Waiters had the best stretch of his pro career this past season. If he can maintain his efficiency in 2017-18, he might find himself in the playoffs. But he was in the playoffs in 2016 with the Thunder and it didn’t go so well for Waiters in the Western Conference Finals. But don’t tell Dion Waiters he came up short.

He won’t believe you.


photo via llananba