How Dion Waiters could impact the Los Angeles Lakers
As the Los Angeles Lakers search for backcourt reinforcements, they will reportedly have an “exploratory conversation” with Dion Waiters.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 10, 2020
Despite having the West’s best record (39-12, 6-5 over their last 11), the Lakers are in the market for someone who can ideally offer solid perimeter defense and occasional playmaking. After failing to acquire any help at the trade deadline — striking out on Marcus Morris, Andre Iguodala, Dennis Schroder, and Derrick Rose — they have no choice but to head to the free agent/buyout market.
Jeanie Buss attempted to recruit Darren Collison, but the UCLA alum will reportedly remain retired.
Waiters has ties to the organization: GM Rob Pelinka used to be his agent, and Waiters is now repped by Rich Paul. (J.R. Smith, also a Klutch client, remains a possibility for the Lakers, too.)
The 28-year-old vet was waived by the Memphis Grizzlies after being dealt in the Andre Iguodala-Justise Winslow exchange. He has been mired in a tumultuous campaign, and Memphis was willing to eat the final two years and $24.75 million on his contract to keep him away.
He tallied as many suspensions (3) for Miami as games played this season — for venting frustrations over playing time, for passing out after taking edibles on a plane (and general detrimental conduct) and again for calling out of practice then celebrating his birthday. Per Woj and Windhorst, “As the Lakers had with free agent Dwight Howard, there needs to be a feeling-out process on Waiters’ state of mind after the tumultuous ending to his Miami Heat career.”
If the Lakers do give Waiters a shot, it’s unfair to expect him to significantly move the needle. Moreover, he certainly doesn’t fill their areas of need.
Waiters has elite heat check ability and can carry a bench unit from time to time, but he is a long way from a 3-and-D. He’s neither tall nor versatile, and is a non-factor defensively.
Dion has shot the ball decently from downtown over his career (34.8 percent), including a 37.7 percent clip in 44 games last season (he hit 10 of his 26 three-point attempts this season). The Lakers rank towards the middle in 3-point shooting and bench scoring, though the offense completely falters with LeBron James off the court.
As The Athletic’s Zach Harper points out, Los Angeles scores at a putrid clip of 101.8 points per 100 possessions without LeBron. The Lakers really need someone who can create shots for others and help a non-LeBron offense hum (someone better than Rajon Rondo). However, Waiters — with a career average of 2.8 assists per contest — has not exactly displayed that ability over his career.
It’s hard to see Dion Waiters making a profound impact in a playoff series, but maybe he can get hot on a few instances and help them win a few games along the way. At the very least, the Lakers could provide a positive environment to help Waiters revive his career.