The Miami Heat announced Friday that they have officially re-signed forward James Johnson and guard Dion Waiters.
Both players were signed to one-year deals in the aftermath of Dwyane Wade’s departure last summer and responded with the best year of their pro careers. Johnson and Waiters were effusive in their praise for the Heat franchise at the conclusion of the regular season and expressed their desire to return.
“James Johnson epitomizes everything that the Miami Heat is about,” said Heat President Pat Riley in a team statement. “He came in, made a promise to us and then fulfilled that promise by becoming a world class athlete thus leading to the best season he has had in the NBA. Today, he is being rewarded for the fulfillment of that promise. We will continue to push him to get him to an even higher level. His signing today, for me personally and the coaching staff, is one of our happiest signings. We are happy for James and his family as we look for him to have an even greater year next season.”
From the Heat’s press release:
Johnson appeared in 76 games (five starts) with the HEAT last season and averaged 12.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.13 blocks, 1.00 steals and 27.4 minutes while shooting 47.9 percent from the field. The eight-year NBA veteran set single-season career highs last season in every major category including points (975), rebounds (376), assists (276), steals (76), blocks (86), field goals made (368), three-point field goals made (87) and free throws made (152). He led the team in plus/minus (+138) and his improvement from 2015-16 to last season in Miami was the largest in the NBA when factoring points, rebounds and assists per game averages, nobody in the league improved in each of those three categories more.
Johnson was Miami’s leading scorer off the bench 27 times and topped the HEAT reserves in assists a team-high 43 times, in blocks on 38 occasions, in rebounds a team-high 31 times and in steals 28 times. He posted nine 20-point games as a reserve, tying for the fourth-most during a single-season in HEAT history, as Miami totaled 22 such games off the bench, the most in team history. He tallied 884 points, 341 rebounds and 248 assists as a reserve, and along with Tyler Johnson, they became the only set of teammates in the entire NBA to each record at least 600 points, 250 rebounds and 200 assists off the bench. On the defensive end, Johnson was in isolation situations 53 times last season, giving up just 22 percent (9-of-41) shooting to the player he was guarding, marking the second-lowest percentage in the entire NBA by player with at least that many isolation situations. Additionally, he gave up just 0.49 points per isolation possession (26 total), also the second-lowest in the league with at least 53 isolation situations.
Riley also commented on the return of Waiters.
“Dion Waiters proved to us last season that we have found one of the best two guards in the NBA and we are happy today to be able to sign Dion to a long-term contract,” said HEAT President Pat Riley. “We love his game and competiveness. He is an attacker and an excellent three-point shooter as well as a defender. He is a player that has no fear in taking the last shot regardless of the outcome. We believe that continuity has shown to be one of the important things that we do by keeping a team together. Having Dion back in the fold is a big factor in keeping that team chemistry together.”
From the Heat’s press release:
Last season, Waiters appeared in 46 games (43 starts), helping Miami to a 27-19 (.587) record in those games. He averaged 15.8 points, 4.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 30.1 minutes while shooting 42.4 percent from the field and a career-high 39.5 percent from three-point range. He tied his career-high of 33 points vs. Golden State on January 23 while also tying his career-high of 13 made field goals in a game in which he hit the game-winning three-point basket to help defeat the Warriors, 105-102. He scored at least 17 points in eight consecutive games from January 21 through February 4, marking the second-longest such streak of his career. Waiters, who was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week on January 30, led the HEAT in scoring 12 times, in assists 14 times, in steals on 13 occasions, in minutes 12 times and in plus/minus on eight occasions while recording 16 20-point games, including two 30-point performances, on the year.
Waiters has appeared in 335 regular season games (153 starts) during his five-year career averaging 13.2 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.00 steals and 28.6 minutes while shooting 41.3 percent from the floor and 34.6 percent from three-point range.