Can Dion Waiters Really Help the Los Angeles Lakers?

Mo DakhilFeatured Columnist IMarch 6, 2020

MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 07:  Dion Waiters #11 of the Miami Heat warms up prior ot the game against the San Antonio Spurs at American Airlines Arena on November 7, 2018 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

This is the time of the year in the NBA when contenders scour the buyout and free-agent markets to fill holes on their roster. The Los Angeles Lakers have reached into the pool for a second time this season with the signing of Dion Waiters.

The Lakers need another scorer off the bench who can add a little playmaking as well, especially when LeBron James goes to the bench. When James is on the court, the Lakers have an offensive rating of 114.1, which would be the second-best mark in the NBA. When he's off, though, it drops to 105.0, which would be second-worst.

Dion Waiters has had quite a year. While with the Miami Heat, he was suspended three different times, once for taking a cannabis-infused gummy on a team flight. He played in just three games for the Heat and was eventually traded to the Memphis Grizzlies, who waived him.

Despite all the drama this year, Waiters can help the Lakers.


Scoring Punch

The Lakers offense comes to a screeching halt when LeBron steps off the floor. None of the guys who come off the bench are true scoring threats. Waiters can provide that scoring punch.

He has averaged 13.2 points and shot 34.8 percent from three in his career. Bringing him in adds another shooter to the Lakers, who make a league-average 35.9 percent from deep. In 44 games last season, Waiters shot 37.7 percent from three. 

He has played in just three games this season but displayed all of his skills. Against the Boston Celtics, he showed he can make plays off the bounce—first getting by his man from the top of the key by going between his legs and then using a left-to-right crossover to get to the rim.


Last season, Waiters hit 35.7 percent on dribble pull-up threes. It is one of his go-to moves. After shaking his defender in the above clip, Waiters sets him up by going between his legs again. The defender drops back, thinking the crossover is coming, but then Waiters pulls up right into his shot.


The Lakers do not have anyone on the bench who can come in and create his own shot like Waiters can. Bringing him off the bench can alleviate some of the pressure on Anthony Davis to create everything for the second unit from the post.

Waiters gives coach Frank Vogel another option to play with James as well. He made 38.6 percent of his catch-and-shoot three-pointers last year. That would be second-best among Lakers with more than two attempts a game.

But it's not just about scoring with him in the second unit.



One of the bigger problems with the Lakers' second unit has been the lack of playmaking. The team's assist numbers drop dramatically when James steps off the court—from 19.7 assists when he is on the floor to 7.4 when he is off.

Waiters' ability to penetrate will put more pressure on the defense and open up opportunities for other players. On this play, he gets in the lane and forces the defense to rotate, allowing him to kick it out to Goran Dragic for three.


Waiters has averaged 2.8 assists over his career with a career-high average of 4.3 in 2016-17. The Lakers will need to tap into that aspect of his game when James is off the floor to help the second unit's offense.


Irrational Confidence Guy

An irrational confidence guy is a marginal player whose confidence in his ability to score is much larger than his actual ability. These players tend to have moments where they erupt. An example would be Eddie House during his time with the Boston Celtics. He had no problem taking big shots even with Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett on the court.

Waiters does not lack confidence, and he has no fear of taking big shots. He can get hot and carry a team. A few seasons ago, he dropped 33 points against the Golden State Warriors, including the game-winning three in Klay Thompson's face. The pose afterward is peak irrational confidence.


He also got hot in a short amount of time against the Los Angeles Clippers this season with 14 points in 18 minutes in a close loss. He kept the Heat in the game, coming up with two blocks against Lou Williams and then sinking a pull-up for a transition three.


The Lakers need Waiters, but Waiters needs them more. His reputation has taken a big hit with three suspensions this season. The Grizzlies chose to eat his $12.7 million salary for next season and take a cap hit by waiving him instead of opting to deal with him. For Waiters, this could be the last stop of his NBA career if he can't show he can fall in line.

Shams Charania @ShamsCharania

Sources: Waiters, his agent Rich Paul and the Lakers had several conversations, they have been positive, and it's been made clear among all: This must work out for him -- otherwise, Lakers reserve the option to release him. https://t.co/rGL3xlxFvo

The Lakers have experience with reclamation projects. The signing of Dwight Howard was mocked, but he embraced his role as a bench player and has become a fan favorite. The Lakers likely hope they can do the same with Waiters.

His signing can be fruitful for both. It is a chance to revitalize his career; he is only 28 years old and still has a lot of basketball in him. For the Lakers, he can fill the role of instant offense off the bench. They desperately need someone who can keep the offense going when James goes to the bench. That's what they'll need from Waiters more than anything else.


Mo Dakhil spent six years with the Los Angeles Clippers and two years with the San Antonio Spurs as a video coordinator, as well as three years with the Australian men's national team. Follow him on Twitter @MoDakhil_NBA


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