The curious case of Dion Waiters and the Miami Heat

MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 22: Dion Waiters
MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 22: Dion Waiters /

Can Dion Waiters stop himself from sinking the Miami Heat island?

Dynamics in the NBA can be a tricky thing. Proven commodities are often overlooked and undervalued, while both franchises and fans search for the lure of the next big thing. In the case of the Miami Heat, Dion Waiters finds himself on both sides of that bill.

When Waiters signed to  Miami, no one really knew what his contributions would be. He started off the season on a cheap contract (two-year, $2.9 million) and with a groin injury that kept him out for a few weeks. But following a strong comeback and a few game winners, Waiters fell under the guise of a Dwyane Wade replacement.

The perceived mistreatment of Wade was somewhat pardoned for chatter about moving on for the moment. The public even went as far as creating an island for Waiters, in Wade’s adopted County. However, for all of the talk of Wade’s declining skills, he had the better statistical 2016-17 season.

Still, Waiters secured a four-year, $52 million contract this past offseason. Which is more reflective of last summer’s market dip than praise from Kevin Durant, overtures from the New York Knicks or the thirst for something new (but slightly reminiscent) in Miami.

Though those sentiments seem to change with every game of the season.

A 7-for-20 performance is met with calls for the Heat to forget his feelings and crushing his confidence—which is usually high even when it should be as low as his shoe—and to disregard the fact that the size of his contract means that he should start. Then just like that, after a few lucky shots, even his eight games shooting less than 35 percent (most recently in a win over the Brooklyn Nets), are forgiven.

But what can Waiters do to play more efficiently?

The long-term fix is to take care of his ailments. A right elbow that may benefit from rest and a bad ankle that is craving for the surgery dodged in the offseason. Both of which realistically aren’t an option for Waiters, who stands to make an extra $1.1 million if he only misses 12 games. Two of which have already been missed.

So the short-term solution is to improve his game.

Injuries can be used as an excuse for his 28.9 percent jump shooting, but poor decision making has plagued Waiters too. For example, pulling up instead of passing the ball to a wide-open teammate under the basket. Or increasing his 2.6 turnovers a game on unnecessary drive and kicks, instead of capitalizing on his 56.3 percent shooting driving layups.

Next: Miami Heat: Goran Dragic suddenly struggling, inconsistent

All signs that point to Waiters’ basketball discipline being off. In a way that makes it look as if he took Miami’s money and ran off…