According to reports, Thunder backup shooting guard Dion Waiters has signed with the Miami Heat for a $2.9M exception.
AP Sources with @ByTimReynolds: Dion Waiters has agreed to a 1-year deal with Heat for $2.9M exception.— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) July 25, 2016
Waiters' trajectory over the past week has been precipitous, capping an end to an emotional season. Waiters has gone from a place where GM Sam Presti recently said, "The only thing I can tell you [about Waiters] is it generally bodes well when the player is wanting to be back," to the Thunder rescinding Waiters' restricted free agent qualifying offer a week ago, to now signing with the Heat for what will be around $1.1 million less than he made a year ago in the 4th year of his rookie contract. As a reminder, the Thunder's qualifying offer of $6.8 million was extended on July 1st and Waiters could have accepted it at any time beginning on July 7th. By not signing the QA or any other offer to him during his brief restricted free agency period, Waiters cost himself just under $4 million in the 2016-17 season.
Waiters' pay cut is particularly stark in contrast to today's other contract news, where Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum, taken 10th in the 2013 draft, signed a $106 million extension, which is in part a byproduct of the new TV deal cash infusion that takes effect next season. Waiters, the 4th pick in the 2012 draft, has yet to achieve the success of a lottery pick or the contract that goes with it. In the unfolding recent events where he looked to be a key cog in the Thunder's championship aspirations, the loss of one of his biggest supporters in Kevin Durant, coupled with the sudden emergency of OKC's concern to extend Russell Westbrook long term, has left Waiters as collateral damage. Waiters had meetings with both the 76ers and the Nets, but both teams failed to make an offer. Meanwhile, the signing of Alex Abrines with the Thunder was considered by many to be the final move that would ultimately end Waiters' time in OKC.
Waiters will go to a Miami Heat team that performed solidly in the playoffs last season before falling to the Toronto Raptors, and for the first time are without 3-time champion Dwyane Wade, who left for Chicago. Waiters may be seen as a 1-year stop gap for the Heat, but perhaps the growth he has shown over the past year will surprise some people and set him up for a more worthy new contract when the dust settles after the 2017 season ends.