With Troy Daniels waived, the Lakers have moved quickly to begin to find a potential replacement for his roster spot. The first candidate is former Heat Guard, Dion Waiters. Waiters worked out for the Lakers on Monday and, reportedly, it went well:
Okay, let’s unpack this a bit more. Charania is a respected reporter, so what I’m about to say next is not meant at all as a dig or to be interpreted as my questioning his reporting. With that caveat out of the way, Charania recently changed agents and is now represented by the media arm of the firm that hired Rich Paul to lead its sports division. Rich Paul is, you guessed it, Dion Waiters’ agent.
Could this be Shams reporting out a certain perspective from a source whose best interests are represented by the workout being said to have gone well? Sure. Could it be that Waiters actually did impress? Sure. I’m not saying any of these is more likely than the other. Both could also be true. I’m not trying to say these dots should be connected, I’m just making sure we’re all aware that the dots do exist.
With that out of the way, Waiters next challenge is getting buy-in from the front office and coaches and that’s not something that will happen simply because a workout went well. Waiters has a checkered history in this league, and on multiple fronts. He has a tricky injury history, has not always been in the best shape even when healthy, was suspended by the Heat multiple times this season — the last time related to him needing medical attention from, and you cannot make this up, a panic attack resulting from what looked to be him taking too many “THC gummies”, and was instantly bought out by the Grizzlies after being acquired by them as part of Andre Iguodala deal.
Waiters also has a history with LeBron James, and not the good kind. Waiters was a young player on the Cavs when LeBron came back to Cleveland for his second tour of duty. Waiters, a brash scoring threat, could often be seen taking questionable shots and excitedly asking for the ball from Bron in order to do Dion Waiters things with it. Waiters was ultimately traded in the deal that brought the Cavs JR Smith and MOZGOV.
In other words, beyond getting Pelinka, Rambis, and Vogel on board, LeBron will likely need to be convinced too. That’s not nothing and it shouldn’t surprise if it doesn’t happen.
It also shouldn’t surprise if it does. Because, for all the things I typed above, Waiters has talent and an intriguing skill set that this Lakers team currently lacks. Waiters is a shooting guard with real scoring punch and the ability to get buckets from the rim to the arc. He can create his own shot, can do so in isolation or when running the P&R, and can do some work off the ball too. He’s not particularly efficient, but in smaller doses and shorter stretches, his particular brand of basketball can be useful on a team like the Lakers.
Further, Waiters’ confidence as a scorer has value even if it can cut both ways. Sometimes, it’s valuable to have a player who has an inflated sense of self and what his position is on the team. Sometimes, you want a guy who’s willing to wave off the star player because he knows he can beat the player in front of him to make a meaningful play. This approach, when balanced properly, can be of real assistance to a team, particularly one that can be so dependent on its top players to carry such a heavy load. The million dollar question is, would Dion employ the proper balance?
I won’t pretend to know the answer to that question, honestly. Maybe a new situation, on a real contender, helps him walk that path better. Maybe he can be the guard version of Dwight Howard. Or maybe it’s all just wishful thinking. There’s that old saying about leopards and spots and Waiters could just be who he is at this point of his career.
It’s good that the Lakers are doing their due diligence, though. It’s also good that the Lakers don’t actually need Waiters. They’re one of the best teams in the league without him and whatever role he’s signing up for is very likely to be small unless he can prove it should be bigger. But that’s a different bridge to cross and we’re not close to it yet.