Dion Waiters has led a charmed NBA life. After playing with the best player in the world for a few months (LeBron James), Waiters was traded to the team with . . . the second-best player in the world (Kevin Durant), which is sort of like going from bacon-wrapped filet mignon to, well, just plain old filet mignon.
Waiters, a third-year guard out of Syracuse, was traded from Cleveland to Oklahoma City on Monday. Waiters is young (23), big (6-4, 225 pounds) and skilled (career averages of 14.3 points and 2.8 assists per game).
In fact, there are those who believe the acquisition of Waiters may allow the Thunder to part ways with 23-year-old Reggie Jackson, the former Boston College star who is averaging 15.3 points, 5.1 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game.
Any merit to Jackson being on the chopping block?
“I don’t think so,” CBS Sports NBA insider Ken Berger said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I know the Knicks are going to still try to pry him away. I don’t know what other assets they have that they could do that, but they still like them. I haven’t heard any inkling that the Thunder are ready, willing or able to move Reggie Jackson at this point. I think they ultimately keep him.”
That wouldn’t be a bad move. Durant and Russell Westbrook, as we all know, are all-world talents. As for a third banana, you could do far worse than Jackson, and Waiters gives Oklahoma City – which is sometimes far too reliant on Durant on Westbrook – another scoring threat.
“I think what this says for them – to go into the luxury tax for the first time in their history for Dion Waiters – I think it speaks to a couple of things,” Berger said. “I mean, it’s never been that (general manager) Sam Presti has said ‘We’ll never go into the tax,’ but (he has said), We’ll only do it for calculated reasons. And I think they felt that they need some kind of offensive firepower on that team besides (Russell) Westbrook and (Kevin) Durant, and Waiters can certainly give that to them and certainly help them. All is not lost. They’re only three games out of the eighth spot.”
Indeed, Oklahoma City (17-18) is currently tenth in the Western Conference, just a half-game behind New Orleans (17-17) and three games behind Phoenix (21-16).
There’s just one thing that Doug Gottlieb doesn’t understand: If the Thunder were willing to go into the luxury tax for Waiters, why weren’t they willing to do the same for James Harden? After all, the 25-year-old Harden leads Houston (23-11) with 27.0 points and 6.5 assists per game.
“They could have (gone into the luxury tax),” Berger said, “but this is sort of a short-term deal with Dion Waiters. With Harden, it would have been a multiple-year thing. So they’re a team – in their situation in their market with the revenue streams that they have – (that) can afford to dip into the luxury tax and then step back out. They’re not a team that can commit to going into it for five years.”