The Thunder and shooting guard Dion Waiters are actively exploring a contract extension, league sources have informed Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. The two sides have until November 2nd to come to an agreement or Waiters would be eligible to become a restricted free agent after the 2015/16 campaign, which is just in time for the anticipated jump in the salary cap. Waiters, 23, has been enthusiastic about working toward a deal with the Thunder, Wojnarowski notes, and he is eager to compete on a contender as well as comfortable with his growth in a strong atmosphere for player development like Oklahoma City provides. He is set to earn $5,138,430 this season, the last of his rookie scale deal.
Oklahoma City already has $59,056,672 in guaranteed salary on the books for 2016/17, and that figure doesn’t include Kevin Durant, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent come the end of this season. Any dealings by the franchise this season will certainly be done with Durant’s pending free agency in mind, which could potentially hinder the two sides in reaching an accord by the league’s deadline. For his part, Durant believes Waiters will remain in OKC for the long term, telling Royce Young of ESPN.com (Twitter link), “He feels like he belongs here. He’s not going anywhere.”
The Thunder acquired Waiters as part of a three-way trade last January and he had averaged 10.5 points in 23.8 minutes while shooting 40.4% from the field and 25.6% from 3-point range prior to the deal last season. With the Thunder, he notched 12.7 points in 30.3 minutes while shooting 39.2% overall and 31.9% from long range. He regressed from his second year averages of 15.0 PPG, 43.3% overall shooting and 36.8% on three-pointers. His ESPN Hollinger PER rating of 10.93 last season was well below the league standard of 15.0 and 59th among shooting guards, as Hoops Rumors’ Dana Gauruder noted in his extension candidate piece on Waiters.