MIAMI – The Miami Heat will decide if they want to play Dion Waiters this summer and President Pat Riley believes the organization will have a good idea by the end of the season if the fifth-year guard will be worth a sizeable contract.
Waiters, 25, has lifted his scoring average to 15.9 a game after the best stretch of his career and is rising to the top of the two-guard list when it comes to free agents this summer. Over his last 14 games he is averaging 20.4 points and 5.1 assists while shooting 48 percent, including 45.6 on 3s.
“If he can put together another 25 games similar to what he has done the last 10 or 12, that’s a pretty good sample size of what a guy can do,” Riley said Thursday after the trade deadline expired without the Heat making a move.
“Does it impact winning? That’s an analytic that you have to figure out, his impact on winning. He’s been talked to a lot about that. I think he’s really taken to heart his conditioning and playing both ends of the court. He’s a playmaker. He’s a big-time playmaker.”
Waiters’ best stretch has coincided with the Heat turning around the season and making a run at the playoffs. Miami has won 14-of-16 and enters tonight’s game in Atlanta 2.5 games out of the final playoff spot.
Waiters signed a two-year, $6 million deal with the Heat last summer, with a player option for the second year, one he will surely opt out of this summer to become a free agent. He could command around $15 million a year.
After a rough start, at least shooting the ball, Waiters missed 20 games because of a torn groin muscle. Since returning he’s been a different player, hitting his jumper, finishing on his drives, upping his assists and playing solid defense.
“Erik has constantly been coaching him on efficiency, efficiency, efficiency,” Riley said about coach Erik Spoelstra.
“Be a two-way player. We know he’s a big-game player. He has a lot of guts. He wants to take the shot at the end of the game. He’s a very gifted player.”