In a move I was not sure would come, but one that I argued for, the Lakers will reportedly fill their 15th roster spot with former Miami Heat Guard Dion Waiters:
Charania further reports that the Lakers front office has made clear to Waiters and his agent Rich Paul that Waiters needs to be on his best behavior or they reserve the right to release him.
The Lakers singing Waiters should not surprise anyone, really. He reportedly had a good workout with the team and in conversations with the organization’s decision makers admitted and owned up to the mistakes he made in Miami.
Ultimately, though, those things are just the window dressing for and the hurdles that needed to be cleared in order to get to the purpose of all this in the first place: the talent that Waiters possesses.
Waiters is not a perfect player by any means, so any framing of this as some huge win would be an oversell. Waiters’ strengths, however, do fall into areas that the Lakers could use more of on their roster, which is why I support bringing him on in the first place. As I wrote in the piece I linked to earlier, waiters can create his own shot in isolation and in the P&R, he has a proven track record as a good spot up shooter, and he can create shots for others — particularly when creating off the dribble.
Defensively, Waiters isn’t the most fundamentally sound defender, but he offers two things that the Lakers could use more: strength and sturdiness on the wing. While Waiters doesn’t have great size, he’s not a small player and his body type is Houston Rocket-esque — thicc and barrel chested. Waiters will compete on that end of the floor, even if the results aren’t always what you’d want.
In saying all that, I get that there are chemistry concerns and I also get the questions about what role Waiters will be walking into. The Lakers, when healthy, are already playing 11 guys on most nights.1Starters: Bradley, Green, LeBron, AD, JaVale; Bench: Rondo, KCP, Caruso, Kuzma, Dwight, and Morris. Waiters would make 12. It’s nearly impossible to play that many guys with any consistency and simply will not happen in the playoffs. Vogel, then, will have some interesting rotation decisions to make if Waiters is going to find minutes. Or, you know, Waiters won’t play at all unless called on in a pinch.
The ramifications of his role operating under either of those scenarios remain to be seen. Could it impact team wide chemistry if he suddenly starts taking another established rotation player’s minutes? Will Waiters maintain a positive attitude if he’s a “break in case of emergency” backup on this team? These are fair questions that we don’t have the answers to. And while I prefer to be optimistic on such things, I get that not everyone will be.
All that being said, Waiters will be a Laker. And his talent is real and can be useful to this specific roster. Whether he gets a chance to deploy it, how well he plays if he does, and what it all means to a team where one of its biggest strengths has been their togetherness and single-minded focus are answers we just don’t have. But I’m very intrigued by what they end up being.