Dion Waiters has been looking for a team that can offer him a prominent scoring role.
The Miami Heat could have just the role for him after a disappointing split with franchise star Dwyane Wade.
Waiters and the Heat were finalizing a one-year contract worth $2.9 million, two people with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press on Monday. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the contract has not been signed and announced.
Waiters averaged 9.8 points for the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, but had several big games in the playoffs. His offensive burst with the second unit helped the Thunder keep pace when stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook needed rest, and his aggressive mentality fit well with a bench unit that needed some force.
Waiters played particularly well against Dallas and San Antonio in the playoffs, helping the Thunder advance to the Western Conference finals against Golden State. The matchups weren’t as favorable for him in that series, one in which the Warriors came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat Oklahoma City.
Waiters could slide right into the starting lineup in the Heat backcourt next to point guard Goran Dragic, offering the 24-year-old shooting guard the playing time and role in the offense that could help him lock down a more lucrative long-term deal down the road.
The Heat have a need for scoring after Wade made the surprising decision to leave the only franchise he has ever played for to join his hometown Chicago Bulls earlier this month.
There are definite similarities between Wade and Waiters beyond just their initials. Both are 6-foot-4 scorers with stout frames that help them absorb punishment on drives to the basket. Both are aggressive scorers who rely more on the midrange game and getting to the rim than 3-pointers. Both have worn No. 3 on their jerseys.
Wade, of course, is far more accomplished in his career with three championships and 12 All-Star nods in his 13-year career that made him an icon in South Florida.
The daunting prospect of replacing such a celebrated figure in the Heat’s starting lineup likely would likely do little to deter Waiters, a supremely confident personality who never hesitated to take big shots in Cleveland despite Kyrie Irving’s status as the go-to player or in Oklahoma City when playing with Westbrook and Durant.
Waiters started the summer as a restricted free agent, a designation that would have given the Thunder the right to match any offer given to Waiters. But after losing Durant to the Warriors, the Thunder rescinded their qualifying offer to Waiters, making him an unrestricted free agent.
The Heat also matched guard Tyler Johnson’s four-year, $50 million offer from the Brooklyn Nets and have other versatile pieces like Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson in Erik Spoelstra’s rotation.