By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
Now we know for sure why Thunder GM Sam Presti pulled that $6.8 million qualifying offer for Dion Waiters, it was apparently the highest offer by a longshot for the now ex-Thunder shooting guard.
The Associated Press first reported Waiters had agreed to a deal early Monday afternoon with the Miami Heat and then shortly after Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo's The Vertical reported Waiters had signed a two year deal for a bit less than $6 million. The second year is a player option, which Waiters would likely decline and jump into free agency again.
The deal is believed to average $2.9 million per year, and shockingly low number and less than half OKC’s qualifying offer which Waiters could have accepted at any time up until Presti pulled it.
Late in the season and for the first part of the playoffs Waiters was expected to generate quite a bit of interest, some NBA reporters and even league insiders thought he could command $15-$17 million per season as part of a 3-4 year deal.
He got some looks, talked to a few teams, his hometown Philadelphis 76ers, the Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls and of course Miami.
But Waiters struggled the last three games of the Golden State series, who knows what impact if any that had on the market for a big money contract for Waiters drying up but dry up it did.
Waiters started free agency almost assured of a penthouse deal but ended up in the bargain basement.
Without his $12 plus million cap hold the Thunder now have plenty of room (about $14.4 million) under the salary cap to be able to renegotiate and extend Russell Westbrook’s current contract IF Westbrook will agree.
If he does then he’ll make almost $9 million more this coming season than his current contract calls for and he can sign for three years adding some stability to go along with flexibility.
And don’t sweat Dion’s departure. He was a much better fit with Kevin Durant on the roster. The Thunder could be more dynamic with the additions of Victor Oladipo and Alex Abrines. They’ll get more playing time without Waiters around. And of course OKC also still has Andre Roberson and Anthony Morrow at guard positions, though Roberson especially and perhaps Abrines could also see time at small forward.
By far the biggest impact of Waiters leaving OKC is now the Thunder don’t just have some wiggle room, they have some elbow room for a new Westbrook max deal.
Hopefully soon they’ll find out for sure if Russ wants to talk...or if he’d rather walk.