The return of Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters offers the team the potential for an instant injection of offense that could be an asset come playoff time. That’s a far cry from one report that indicates the Heat were eager to get rid of the seventh-year guard last summer.
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald made the case that taking advantage of Waiters’ talents during the latter half of the regular season is integral to any real improvement for the team. Yet he points out that the thought of trading him last summer was an approach that was actively pursued. The push came just one year after the Heat signed him to a four-year, $52 million deal, according to Jackson:
“Perhaps the organization has soured somewhat on Waiters since giving him that big contract. After all, Miami tried aggressively to trade him last summer, according to two opposing general managers.”
Jackson pointed out that when Waiters was signed to that deal, Heat president Pat Riley had offered a ringing endorsement of the guard:
“One of the most talented two guards, two-way guards at not only attacking the basket, but raising on threes. He had one of the top defensive percentages in the league. He’s an end-of-the-game, end-of-the-shot-clock player. A lot of times you can’t find those kind of players.”
Yet Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra had only played him 11 minutes in the Jan. 2 rout at Cleveland, holding him out of the team’s next two contests. In that time on the court, Waiters scored seven points, dished out three assists and grabbed two rebounds. Jackson believes that a more aggressive approach is needed when it comes to giving the veteran more playing time:
“The Heat needs to see a significant sample size of the new Waiters — with his ankle finally repaired — not only to determine if he can raise this roster’s perceived ceiling, but also so that it has additional information to make prudent decisions before the Feb. 7 NBA trade deadline.
“Spoelstra likely would have arrived at that conclusion eventually anyhow, but there’s no reason to delay the process.”
The first opportunity for Spoelstra to take this advice will come on Tuesday night, when the Heat hosts the Denver Nuggets in the first of a three-game homestand. That’s followed by six road games over a seven-game stretch, a period that may offer a clearer picture of what Waiters can offer.