The Cleveland Cavaliers are not the favorites to have the best record in the Eastern Conference, according to TrueHoop TV’s, David Thorpe. A major reason for this, in Thorpe’s opinion, will be the Cavs lack of production at the two guard spot. More specifically, Dion Waiters.
Thorpe believes that Waiters will be a problem ON and OFF the court for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He questions how effective Waiters can be playing off the ball and how well he will handle having a lesser role in a stacked Cavaliers offense.
Some of Thorpe’s concerns are understandable. To some degree, at least. Not saying that he is right but Waiters has certainly had his fair share of problems in his short Cavalier career that could – and in this case, did – create doubts in peoples minds. Fact of the matter is Waiters has an attitude. An edge, if you will. An edge, however, that LeBron James, himself, has publicly stated he loves.
Before we delve into this, we want to first start off by saying that we admire and respect David Thorpe’s opinion a great deal. We believe that he is one of the really great basketball minds in all of sports media.
ON THE COURT:
Waiters is an interesting prospect on the court. He’s probably a little overrated by local fans, but, at the same time, he’s harshly underrated and undervalued by much of the national contingent.
Waiters has a unique skill set for an off guard. He can handle the ball, score from all levels, and is capable of creating for himself and for others.
While he can get to the rim relatively routinely, he does need to improve on his finishing abilities (he shot just 28% from 0-3 feet, per Basketball-Reference). This is by far his biggest weakness on the offensive side of the ball.
An area that many believed would be a weakness was his 3pt shooting. In no way is Waiters an upper echelon shooter; he’s definitely streaky, but there is no denying that his growth and maturation in that department is cause for jubilation if you’re a Cavs fan.
As a rookie, Waiters shot just 31% from beyond the stripe. Last season, however, Waiters improved that percentage to nearly 37%. He did this, by the way, in a Mike Brown offense that does not help anyone’s offensive production. Waiters improvement beyond the arc could improve once again this coming season. With Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, and Kevin Love on the floor together, Waiters is going to get some fantastic looks at the basket. Looks that, if last season was any indication, he should be able to knock down at a pretty high rate.
Some would argue that many Cavs fans, are overrating Waiters talents, so, to put it into perspective, let’s take a look at a comparison between Waiters and Bradley Beal‘s stats per 36:
Waiters: 19.3pts, 3.4ast, 2.8reb, 43%FG, 37%3FG
Beal: 17.8pts, 3.5ast, 4reb, 42%FG, 40%3FG
Throughout two years of NBA play, Waiters has amassed 2007 points, 3828 minutes, in 131 games. Beal has 2029 points, 4275 minutes, in 129 games.
Why is it that two players so eerily similar to one another statistically – aside from Beal’s outstanding 3pt shooting – are viewed so differently?
Beal, by most accounts, is one of the top wing prospects in all of basketball. Waiters, on the other hand, is viewed as a negative asset? Now, it is not naivity. Understand that Waiters attitude and ego come off the wrong way which hinders his value, but the people that try to argue that he’s not a talented prospect are kidding themselves.
OFF THE COURT:
Waiters has had his fair share of off the court problems. He’s had rumored locker room altercations, disagreements with coaches, and has supposedly leaked team info to outsiders. Now, none of this has been “confirmed,” but where there is smoke, there’s typically some sort of fire.
Waiters has let it be known publicly, via his Twitter, that he will not embrace a role as the team’s 6th man. That, in some peoples’ opinion, is a problem. It’s not that he thought it or felt that way that caused the problem; Waiters confidence is something to admire. It’s the fact that he chose to put it on Twitter that caused the situation to be problematic.
Thorpe’s concern isn’t the Twitter nonsense, though. He’s worried that if Waiters had a problem playing second fiddle to Irving the last two years, how is he going to handle being a fourth option to LeBron, Love, and Irving.
Thorpe isn’t wrong saying it won’t be easy. Especially at first, but he shouldn’t have single handedly called out Waiters. Love, Irving, and Waiters will all have to learn to play off of LeBron. It’s going to be different for all of them, there is no questioning that, but with LeBron’s tutelage and guidance, they can all make it work, including Waiters.
Remember the first year of the Big 3 Era in Miami? It wasn’t all fun and games from the start. They didn’t hit the ground running either. It is easy to envision something very similar for the Cavaliers. It’s going to be a process, that much is certain.
We are not saying that Cleveland is a lock to win the title. Nor are they even a sure thing in the East. There are a lot of variables to take into consideration: There is still a lot of youth and inexperience on this roster. The talent is immense, but they still have to learn one another’s games. And when you’re a star studded team, you’re likely to get the opposing team’s very best every night. All of these are very real concerns for the Cavaliers. If they don’t win the East, any of these things could be to blame.
Waiters has to mature, both on and off the court, but let’s not forget he’s still just 22 years old. He definitely still has a lot to learn, too, but, again, let us not forget that he’s now playing with the best teacher in all of basketball, LeBron James.
Dion Waiters has his flaws, he is, after all, just human, but to blame him for Cleveland’s theoretical failures seems a little overly critical and lazy.
What do you think about Waiters’ role on the Cavs?