The Miami Heat are potentially losing a lot of players to free agency this offseason, with the list including James Johnson, Luke Babbitt, Josh McRoberts, Udonis Haslem, Willie Reed, and Dion Waiters. They have a lot of cap room this year, with the total amount projected to be $30,887,668. This provides plenty of money for the Heat to allot towards free agents. However, if the Heat wish to acquire a big name free agent, such as Gordon Hayward, they will have to sacrifice some of these players who have played key roles this past season.
With the conclusion of their season and free agency looming, a big question is raised for the Miami Heat: Do they bring back Dion Waiters?
Miami battled through a treacherous season this year, fighting through injuries and adversity to achieve a .500 record of 41-41. Though they started the season at 11-30, they finished the second half of the season very strong with a 30-11 record, including a key 13-game winning streak, seeing impressive wins over the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, and the Atlanta Hawks. The key player during this run? Dion Waiters.
In his first season as a ‘Heatle”, Dion Waiters was the hero for the Miami Heat through their 2016-2017 campaign, averaging 15.8 points per game on 42.4% and a career-high in assists and rebounds at 4.3 and 3. This was all before a left ankle sprain caused him to miss the last 13 games of the season, effectively ending his season.
Waiters repeatedly made big plays down the stretch over the course of the season and established himself as the go-to man for the Miami Heat in crunch time. When they needed a basket, the ball was in Dion’s hands. He took full advantage of opportunities as he thrived in these moments.
The biggest moment of the season for Waiters, and perhaps the best play of his career, was on January 23rd, in the waning moments of a tight showdown between the Miami Heat and the stacked Golden State Warriors. With 14.6 seconds left, Waiters’ former teammate, Kevin Durant, had just blown by James Johnson for an uncontested dunk to knot the game at 102.
With no timeouts left, Miami inbounded the ball to Waiters, who proceeded to bring the ball up the court. The Heat ran a “five out” set, having their players spread along the perimeter, straddling the sidelines. Waiters had the ball at half-court and patiently began his size up on Klay Thompson, going through the legs twice. On the second between the legs dribble, Waiters pulled up and got off his quick release, over the outstretched arms of Klay Thompson. Money.
The shot fell through the rim, hitting nothing but net. The clock read 00.6 seconds and the score was 105-102, advantage Miami. Just as fans thought the play couldn’t get any better, it did. Waiters pulled out the most Dion Waiters celebration possible. Not having moved an inch from where he landed after the shot, Dion just turned and crossed his arms, not even cracking a smile. The Heat rejoiced and celebrated the phenomenal shot with their teammate.
According to Waiters, in his recently published article on The Players Tribune, he was out at dinner with Kevin Durant. Waiters has spoke of the Heat on the verge of going on a run, and Kevin Durant didn’t buy it. The exchange can be found below:
I said, “Naw, I’m serious. We’re gonna rip off seven straight.”
He said, “Yeah, but we’re coming to Miami in two weeks.”
I said, “Yeah, that’s a W. Bet.”
He was laughing his ass off.
Little did Kevin Durant know. Now that it is cemented in the history books, Waiters reminisces of the moment and provides us with his mindset going into the shot. He quoted himself thinking, “Fourth quarter, 10 seconds left. Tie game. I got the ball in my hands with the game on the line, and I already knew what was gonna happen. F*** an overtime, let’s get up outta here.”
This is confidence at its finest. Confidence that the Miami Heat need. Dion Waiters is an extremely talented player who will not shy away in big moments, having unmatched confidence. He always sees himself as the best player on the court, regardless of who else is in the game.
After his lone season in Miami, Waiters has already shown Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra glimpses of his potential. At only 25, the NBA can surely expect Waiters to only improve his game going forward. If the Heat fail to lock down big name free agents early into free agency, it is to their best interest to make re-signing Dion Waiters a priority. If Miami manages to secure Waiters for another season, Heat fans can expect a show and a little more “Philly Cheese Steak.”