By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
While free agency has almost come to completion, there are still a few loose threads hanging out on the waiver wire. One of the longest threads is Dion Waiters, who went from restricted to unrestricted free agent after Oklahoma City rescinded its $6.8M qualifying offer to him a few days ago.
Waiters is one of the more divisive figures in basketball circles. While he’s still young (24) and plenty talented (former 4th overall pick), the Philadelphia native has shot only 41% from the field over his 4-year career. He also has a reputation for taking bad shots, which only started to lift during the latter part of last season with the Thunder, and has some history as a bit of a malcontent (most notably concerning the rift between he and ex-teammate Kyrie Irving).
The segment of the Sixers fanbase in the no-Waiters camp had a mild heart attack recently when Waiters’s Instagram post included the caption, #TrustTheProcess. Did that mean a deal with Philadelphia was imminent? According to Philly.com’s Keith Pompey, a source close to Waiters had this to say:
“That doesn’t have anything to do with the Sixers. That’s a mantra that he and his trainer have made for a while. When things weren’t doing well at Syracuse, they would say ‘trust the process.’ Whenever he goes through a tough time, he says ‘trust the process.’ Right now, he’s trusting the process of free agency.”
Crisis averted, for now?
I’d also argue crisis averted for good. Even if there is still the occasional rumble about interest between the Sixers and Philadelphia native Waiters, I just don’t see how they make for a good match via contractual elements alone.
As a 24-year-old participating in free agency for the first time in his career, it only makes sense that Waiters would be looking for a long-term deal. Yet, Bryan Colangelo has made it very clear he’s unwilling to commit any money in free agency to years down the road, understandably betting that once the team shows signs of improvement, that space could be used to lure higher-profile free agents.
We saw Colangelo’s prudence on display with the fact that Jerryd Bayless was only signed for 3 years, and per Basketball Insiders, the deal declines in value over time. Furthermore, what was originally believed to be a 2-year deal for Gerald Henderson was discovered to have a team option on the 2nd year, a great move by the Sixers front office to introduce an added degree of salary cap flexibility should they require it next offseason.
Why would Colangelo go through the trouble of shaving off those bits of cap space in later years with guys they were actually targeting, only to blow it on signing Dion Waiters? The team can’t be anything more than lukewarm on him or he wouldn’t still be sitting out there as an unrestricted free agent.
Now, is it conceivable the Sixers bring him in on 1-year deal, with Waiters wanting to rebuild his value before the cap jumps again next summer and try to cash in then? Sure. But that’s a big risk to take for a young guy still looking for his first, non-rookie contract. I think it’s more likely Waiters swallows his pride and takes slightly less money than he may have been hoping for, but with the security of a long-term deal. It doesn’t add up that such a deal is coming from Philadelphia.