We’re currently at this rare lull in the NBA calendar where the offseason moves are winding down a few weeks before the basketball tournament at the Rio Olympics begins, so we here at The Comeback thought it would be a great time to start a little column series called The Most Intriguing Non-Kevin Durant Stories of the NBA Offseason.
You’ve heard enough KD hot takes already and are ready for some new, interesting storylines and angles. You’ve come to the right place.
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After the Oklahoma City Thunder rescinded Dion Waiters’ qualifying offer Monday night, making him an unrestricted free agent, it likely marked the end of the shooting guard’s tenure with OKC and will allow him to explore the market. It will also enable Waiters to fulfill his ultimate destiny and his true calling: To be a volume shooter and a low-percentage scorer for really bad basketball teams.
The debut of Waiters Island in the postseason went surprisingly well. He shot 37.5 percent from three off the bench and posted offensive efficiency numbers that blew his regular season career bests out of the water, even posting more offensive win shares in the playoffs than the entire regular season. However, the way the offseason went for the Thunder— the team hasn’t exactly had the best month— all but ensured Waiters’ departure.
With Victor Oladipo coming to OKC from Orlando on draft night in the Serge Ibaka deal and Spanish sharpshooter Alex Abrines joining the club on a three-year deal Monday to play alongside incumbent shooting guard Anthony Roberson, there really isn’t a spot for Waiters. With nearly all of the contending teams lacking the cap space needed to sign Waiters, it seems inevitable that he’s going to go back to a bad team, which is where he belongs statistically and for the entertainment of NBA fans everywhere.
Waiters’ last full season with a bad, non-playoff team was with the 2013-2014 Cleveland Cavaliers, which was LeBron James’ final season in Miami. Cleveland went 33-49 and won the NBA Draft lottery just weeks before James decided to come home. Waiters scored 26 points on Jan. 4, 2014, when he tuned out postgame media questions because he was watching his beloved Philadelphia Eagles play a Wild Card game against the Seattle Seahawks (we’ll get to Philadelphia in a bit).
Waiters was traded midseason to the Thunder in 2014-2015 where he mostly came off the bench for the full season in OKC. But between his time with LeBron in Cleveland and in Oklahoma City, his regular season offensive numbers haven’t been the same since he’s played on successful teams. This chart explains why:
|Waiters||Minutes||FGA||FG %||3 FG %||Points||FTA||PER||True Shooting||Usage||O Rating||D Rating||Win Shares|
Waiters’ minutes over the last three regular seasons are almost exactly the same, but his shooting percentages and efficiency ratings were best when he took more shots and was more of a focal point of a team’s offense. Let’s not get things confused here: Waiters’ defensive efficiency has been bad his whole career and teams won’t win many games with him being one of the lead options on offense. But Waiters Island cannot be fully activated or unleashed while a part of a good team. Now we’re almost certainly going to see him return to a bad one.
Which bad team will have the privilege of having Waiters take 14-15 shots per game? Let’s speculate!
Brooklyn could use some more talent and they still have a lot of money to spend under the salary floor, but ESPN’s Marc Stein reported Wednesday that it’s unlikely the Nets will have interest. New management has stressed that culture is now more important to the team, and Waiters may not fall under the team’s definition of good attitude or character.
Waiters is from Philadelphia and the Sixers have room under the salary floor and no better option at shooting guard, so signing him makes a ton of sense in that regard. The problem is that Philly already have 17 players under contract and may not want him next to Ben Simmons. Still, Waiters on the Sixers would be incredibly entertaining.
Another option that comes to mind is Sacramento, which reportedly had interest in signing Waiters at the beginning of July before they opted to bring in Arron Afflalo. There’s also New Orleans, but would they have interest in Waiters splitting minutes with rookie Buddy Hield?
No matter what, it sure seems like our dream of Dion Waiters becoming a volume shooter and scorer is once again going to come true. On one lonely winter night this season, when you’re cold and bored, you’re going to turn on an NBA game and be entertained by Waiters’ awesome antics. And it’s going to feel really, really good. Even if his team is really, really bad.