Dion Waiters appeared headed for a big payday like just about every other NBA free agent last summer but instead had to settle for a much smaller contract with the Miami Heat.
After his first season in Miami averaging 15.8 points, 4.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and 0.9 steals in 46 games while shooting a career-high 39.8% from deep, Waiters cashed in by re-signing with a four-year deal worth $52 million if he meets all his contract incentives after declining a player option worth $3.2 million.
But according to his good friend and former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate, Kevin Durant, he was unfocused and messed around too much earlier in his career and it cost him dearly last year. In an interview on “The Bill Simmons Podcast”, Durant speaks out about why he thinks teams passed over Waiters during the free agency bonanza of 2016.
"Hell yeah. He should have got more. But he knows that his fault. He could have got more. He f***ed around.
"He's supposed to be better. He knows that. He waited too long to do what he's doing in Miami I think."
At just 25 years old, Waiters is certainly a much more mature player since his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers after he was drafted fourth overall in 2012. He was a key contributor off the bench for the Thunder and raised his game to quickly become a fan favorite at the AmericanAirlines Arena. Some of it had to do with his trigger-happy offensive aggressiveness clashing with Kyrie Irving in Cleveland, whereas now he’s a much better fit with the playmaking style of Goran Dragic. Some of it also had to do with the culture here in Miami inspiring him to greater heights and getting him to peak condition.
Time will tell if he can improve on his first season here in Miami, especially if he can stay healthy, and while Durant’s words may seem harsh on the surface, it most likely comes out of love for his friend and wanting him to play to the level his talent, and his heart and soul, dictates.