Dion Waiters is many things: irrationally confident, a paragon of inefficiency, an occasional misser of layups, and a proud Syracuse alum. As an unrestricted free agent, he’s also in search of a new team, and, well … things aren’t going so hot.
After the Thunder rescinded their qualifying offer to Waiters on Monday — reportedly in an attempt to free up cap space for a possible Russell Westbrook extension — the enigmatic shooting guard hit the open market. Brooklyn seemed like an obvious destination: The Nets need players, period, and Waiters would undeniably make them better. But on Wednesday, ESPN’s Marc Stein unleashed a tweetstorm downplaying this possibility:
Nevertheless, Waiters wasn’t much of a topic at the aforementioned press conference, and there are no indications that the Nets will pursue him. (Perhaps two Cleveland castoffs — Joe Harris and former no. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett — are more than enough for Brooklyn GM Sean Marks.) As such, it looks like Waiters will have to find work elsewhere. Might he be interested in returning to his hometown of Philadelphia?
“#TRUSTTHEPROCESS,” a very sweaty Waiters hashtagged on Tuesday, fueling speculation that the Sixers were in the mix for his services. Although former Philly GM Sam Hinkie would’ve undoubtedly appreciated this caption more than current boss Bryan Colangelo, a Waiters-Sixers marriage still makes sense. Philly boasts plenty of cap space and needs a 2-guard as badly as anyone in the league. (Nik Stauskas is the current starter, a fact that not even Vivek Ranadivé would consider good news.) Then there’s the homecoming angle: Waiters maintains a strong connection with the Philadelphia community, he’s friends with local legend Meek Mill, and he reportedly has a “strong desire” to play for the Sixers, despite their 47–199 record over the past three seasons. If this isn’t a match made in heaven, it’s at least one made in the City of Brotherly Love.
Alas, as with the Nets, Waiters’s talks with the Sixers apparently fizzled in July. According to Philly.com’s Keith Pompey, an unnamed Sixers source fears “that the sometimes-blunt Waiters wouldn’t mesh well with the Sixers’ young players,” which, barring a change of heart, seems to rule out a homecoming. The Kings had interest in Waiters when free agency began, but nothing ever came of those talks.
Despite Waiters’s reputation as a volatile, selfish player, it’s worth remembering that he’s coming off a surprisingly effective postseason during which he played like the kind of 3-and-D swingman most teams could use. In a free-agency market where Timofey Mozgov can command $16 million per year, Waiters’s inability to find a suitor is especially confounding. He’s only 24, was talented enough to be drafted no. 4 overall in 2012, and, at this point, could probably be had for a fairly reasonable price. Inexplicably, though, he’s become the “last man in the green room” of free agency: working out, Instagramming into the abyss, waiting for a team — some team, any team — to call.