2015-2016 Season Grades: Dion Waiters

Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports /

Dion Waiters is a source of controversy inside and outside Oklahoma City. The former Syracuse guard is an enigma whose inconsistency is as frustrating as it gets for Thunder fans. A big producer at times, Waiters can often go a whole game without significant contributions despite playing big minutes. Nevertheless, he has proved to be a key cog in Billy Donovan‘s rotation.

Generally the first man off the Thunder’s bench, Waiters suffered tragedy of the worst kind in early March when his brother was killed in his hometown of Philadelphia. He took time away from the team, and returned after four games to mourn his loss.

With his contract expiring in the summer, it’s likely that bigger offers from elsewhere will sway him away from Oklahoma City come July. Did Waiters do enough to convince the Thunder to extend his stay beyond this season? Let’s take a look.


Like the rest of his contributions, this was a mixed bag for Waiters. He finished with season averages of 9.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.0apg and 1.0spg, which were obviously down on last season’s numbers where he played a bigger role with so many injuries to key players. However his shooting splits (40-36-71 percent) were all up from last season’s numbers.

Whilst 36 percent three-point shooting is not ideal (closer to or above 40 percent is the dream), Waiters can still stretch the floor when he gets going. He shot 45 percent from deep in January, but 27 percent the month before in December in a perfect demonstration of how streaky he can be.

His step-back jumpers are the brunt of the frustration of Thunder fans, and is something that needs to be cut from his game for him to become a better and more efficient player. He’s only shooting 33 percent in those situations from 16 feet to the three-point line, further evidence that it’s a complete hindrance to his game.

There’s also the argument that Waiters plays better against weaker opponent, whilst struggling against the elite teams. Early in the season Waiters was also charged with running the second unit, but he lacked chemistry with Enes Kanter in the pick and roll and this role has been rotated between himself, Cameron Payne and Randy Foye.

However, Donovan’s staggering of minutes mean he has had to run the second unit less, which is better for the team. Taking a look at a few of the key stats around Waiters offensively, it doesn’t always look good for him:

  • His PER was a career low 9.4, well below replacement level of 15.0.
  • The Thunder post an offensive rating of 112.1 with him on the floor, but is actually better by 2 points at 114.1 with him on the bench.
  • Waiters on/off court rating sits at -7.5, meaning the team performs much better when he sits.
  • Finishing at the rim continues to be a problem for him, converting only 52 percent of his attempts at the rim. Making 48 percent of your layups is an extremely poor number.
  • Waiters actually makes 41 percent of his threes on the road (a good sign for Playoff basketball?), but only 31 percent at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
  • In a more promising note, Waiters is making 40 percent of his threes in the fourth quarter, which is a mixture of playing in closing lineups as well as occasionally being part of the garbage crew in blowouts. That being said, he also shoots 30 percent from deep in situations where the Thunder are in a game of 5 points or less.
  • In terms of potential playoff opponents, Waiters thrived against Dallas in four outings. He shot 49 percent (55 percent from deep), averaging 14.8ppg. But against other potential opponents such as San Antonio (8.3ppg, 27-11-86 percent splits) and Golden State (5.7ppg, 33-0-71 percent splits).


The topic of defense is a tricky one for Waiters. Whilst he can be a good on ball defender, the metrics argue that perhaps that is not the case. However, this also factors in Oklahoma City’s defensive struggles as a whole.

Waiters’ big body for a defender helps him guard all types of perimeter players, and that may prove to be an asset in the playoffs if other guards cannot combine good defense with at least replacement level shooting from deep.

Opponents rated 5.5 points better offensively when Waiters was on the floor, jumping from 102.7 points to 108.2. Considering part of his reputation is that he brings it on both ends, that is not a particularly kind statistic.

The key with Waiters is likely similar to most of the role players in the team. Keeping him involved offensively is the key to motivating him to perform defensively. Serge Ibaka has spoken of it before, and it makes sense.

Heading into the Playoffs, it is vital Waiters performs for the sake of his career. The main concern for him going forward is that he is not excelling at any particular skill or role, nor is he markedly improving as a player.

Not many players face a more crucial postseason than Dion Waiters.

Grade: C-

All statistics used were from BasketballReference.com unless otherwise stated.