MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — Now that the Miami Heat has locked up guard Dion Waiters to a new four-year deal, the team can start planning towards next season.
Waiters averaged 15.8 points in 46 games last season for the Heat.
He was a significant part of how Miami turned its season around after an 11-30 start, going 30-11 in the second half.
The Heat were 27-19 when Waiters played, 14-22 when he did not. Last season was his first in Miami, coming in to essentially fill the role vacated when Dwyane Wade left for Chicago last summer.
“Big Congrats to @dionwaiters3 on the new deal with The Heat,” Wade tweeted Wednesday. “It was only right bro!!!”
Miami missed out on landing Gordon Hayward this week, when the All-Star forward decided that he will be signing with the Boston Celtics.
So Plan B for Miami meant retaining its own free agents like Waiters and James Johnson.
The Heat are making progress toward a deal with Johnson, who has made no secret that he has wanted to be back in Miami.
“We’re going to hopefully make the right selections,” Heat President Pat Riley said going into the offseason. “I hope that Dion and James and the rest of our free agents like it here enough that we’re going to be fair with them and they’re going to be fair with us.”
Miami is also expected to bring back sharpshooter Wayne Ellington.
Ellington averaged a career-high 10.5 points in his first season with the Heat, adding 2.1 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 24.2 minutes per game.
As the season progressed, Ellington found himself on the floor more and more during important stretches for Miami as Erik Spoelstra’s confidence grew in the veteran.
The 25-year-old Waiters missed Miami’s last 13 games because of a badly sprained ankle, and the Heat wound up losing a tiebreaker for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
He played for $2.9 million last season, saying he took a small deal in order to prove he was worthy of big dollars in the future.
Waiters said after the regular season that his plan, and his hope, was to stay with the Heat.
“We’re just getting started,” Waiters said in April. “It’s only the beginning. It’s only the beginning.”
Miami is Waiters’ third team, after his career started with stops in Cleveland and Oklahoma City after he left Syracuse and turned pro. He’s averaged 13.2 points in 335 career games.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)