Fresh off a season in which he was an integral piece to the Thunder's deep playoff run, Dion Waiters is attracting plenty of attention in free agency. The Vertical is reporting that Waiters is one of the Kings' top targets, and cited Sacramento's desperate need for a scoring wing out on the perimeter.
A player gaining significant traction in Sacramento, sources tell @TheVertical: Dion Waiters. Kings have a need for backcourt scoring.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixYS) July 1, 2016
Waiters has also been linked to teams such as the Sixers, Nets, Heat and Chicago Bulls, but the Thunder will have the option to match whatever contract Waiters receives, seeing OKC tendered a qualifying offer on Thursday making Waiters a restricted free agent. The Thunder will have 72 hours to decide if they want to match and retain Waiters if he does indeed sign an offer sheet with another team.
Representatives for Dion Waiters fielded interest from Kings, Nets, Sixers, Bulls, Heat and OKC on Thursday, per a source— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) July 1, 2016
As the sixth man last season, Waiters was able to find an identity within the organization and averaged 9.8 points per game while providing OKC with a reliable scorer off the bench. When asked if he'd like to return to the Thunder, Waiters sounded adamant that he'd like to stay in OKC.
“Of course,” Waiters told reporters after the Thunder was eliminated from the playoffs. “Why not? Since I got here I feel as though they have helped me become a better person off the court. It’s not even about basketball. I’ve never been connected with a group of guys like this that I’m actually close to. Why not? The best fans in the world. I’m definitely looking forward to coming back.”
Along with his growth as a player and person, Waiters also developed a strong relationship with Kevin Durant, so there's a chance Durant could have a say in what the Thunder decide to do as far as matching a rival offer.
When talking with reporters at his end of the season press conference, Thunder GM Sam Presti seemed confident that Waiters would return.
“It generally bodes well when the player is wanting to be back,” Presti said. “Any time you have the opportunity to have a mutual goal, that's always a positive. I do think that in his case, I think the odds are more likely in the event that we're working in partnership.”
Oklahoma City was in a similar situation last year when dealing with Enes Kanter. Portland offered Kanter $70 million to come play for the Blazers, but the Thunder eventually matched the deal to keep Kanter in Oklahoma City. It'll be interesting to see if Presti goes with the same tactics this summer.