After a great season and an amazing playoff run, ending in disappointment, there are a lot of questions regarding the future of this Thunder team. With Kevin Durant becoming a free agent, this is shaping up to be the biggest summer for the organization since relocating to Oklahoma City in 2008. Every Thunder fan and sports anchor in the world is talking about Kevin Durant’s free agency. However, he is not the only Thunder player with a decision to make this summer. There is no doubt that Dion Waiters would have to take a pay cut to stay in Oklahoma City, but his comments in his exit interview have led many to believe he will re-sign with the Thunder.
Waiters has had quite the journey thus far in his NBA career. After being drafted by Cleveland and playing his first two and half seasons there, he was traded to Oklahoma City. He has been able to bring explosive energy and offense coming off the bench. While there are times where he certainly makes you want to toss your phone across the room, he also has his moments that make you wonder how he was able to sink that step-back fade-away jump shot.
He also has moments when his maturity can be questioned, but you can never doubt his passion or his will to win. There is no doubt that we watched Waiters “grow up” this season. He became more about the team instead of being about himself. This was evident during his great all around play during the Thunder playoff run. Proving that he can play physical defense even on the leagues best scorers, which allowed him to show his true value in the playoffs.
Watching Waiters on the court through his career, and earlier in this season, is a little like watching Russell Westbrook four years ago. Flying into the paint out of control, passing when he should be shooting, and shooting when he should be passing. That is not necessarily the case anymore. Sure, he still has his awful moments, but that is part of what makes him so incredibly entertaining to watch. During the second half of the season we watched Dion start to make better decisions. He started looking to get others involved, and played some pretty good defense. This season, Waiters averaged a career low in scoring with 9.8 points but increased his assists while playing an average of 27.6 minutes per game. While his scoring is slightly lower than previous years, there is no doubt his overall game has improved.
Waiters has not held back on his feelings towards Oklahoma City and his teammates. After the game seven loss to Golden State, he said, “they’ve (the Thunder organization) helped me become a better person off the court, it’s not about basketball”.
Here’s Dion Waiters saying he wants to return to the Thunder pic.twitter.com/dpWkcbOZQH
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) May 31, 2016
When asked in his exit interview if he would like to stay he said, “Yeah, I would like to stay, of course. I’ve never been connected to a group of guys like this in my four years in the NBA.” He went on to say, “It don’t even have nothing to do with basketball, it’s just the brotherhood we have.” While there is no way to know for sure what his decision will be, it certainly seems that he would like to stay in Oklahoma City. After hearing his thoughts on the season and seeing him mature, it is definitely hard not to like the guy. I certainly would not mind hearing him yell “And One!!!” for a few more years.
Article written by Craig Hofeld. Follow @thethunderguys on Twitter.