Dion Waiters is an interesting player. On Twitter he is a divisive discussion topic. In NBA circles he seems to have those that think very highly of him and others who think he is just a chucker (low efficiency, ball dominant player). To be clear, I love Dion. I see all the things that he can be and believe Wade-Lite is an apt description of his upside.
Yet this pre-season has led to a question of whether Waiters is fitting in to the new team or standing out like a sore thumb. Before we get into which could be true it is important to define what each of those would look like:
Fitting In – A player who makes plays within the offense and plays a team concept on defense. A player who interacts with others in the locker room and worries far less about himself, instead being team oriented.
Sticking Out – The opposite. A player who stops the offense to do what he wants, sulks and stops moving off the ball, takes bad shots and free lances on both offense and defense. In the locker room he is aloof and separates himself from teammates.
All off-season Dion has said the right things about fitting in. He has studied Wade’s tendencies on how to play with LeBron James so he could fit in. He talked about knowing he needs to change how he plays the game so he fits with the new teammates on his squad. Fitting in seemed to be his goal this off-season.
Then the pre-season started and Waiters has found himself as the only starter not to miss a game. Instead of getting time to mesh with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and James, Waiters has been left to wonder who will be on the court with him. This may be one of the reasons that he has stuck out during games so far, especially on offense:
Most would agree that Waiters should rarely lead this team in shot attempts. Coach David Blatt stated so himself:
Yet the question is are those shots good shots, within the offense, where they fit in or are they selfish, free lanced plays that stick out like a sore thumb?
The answer, like Waiters, is complicated: A little bit of both. Over at Fear The Sword they did a great write-up about the Cavs hoisting a ton of three pointers. In it William showed two different shots from Waiters, the first being the type of shots Dion should be taking because they fit in:
The second are shots that Waiters should be avoiding as they lead to him standing out:
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The first was in rhythm the next was not.
Dion will have to make decisions on a nightly basis about whether he wants to fit in or stand out. That could leave Coach Blatt in a tough situation where he has to either put Waiters in the sixth man role or accept the limitations of Waiters. Chris Haynes noted that Blatt seems to have decided it is something that needs to be addressed:
"“I don’t think he should lead the team in shots. On the other hand I don’t really care. I just want us to take good shots and make them. But we’ll look at it. It’s something we really should look at it and we will.”"
How Dion fits in and plays this season will be a huge storyline. LeBron even stated that if the team struggles that Waiters will be the person blamed:
"“I told him, with every team there is a guy they want to kind of place the blame on, and it will be Dion on our team,” James said Tuesday"
Players play best when they are comfortable. Can Dion find a balance of comfort while fitting in or will he always stand out and be the fall guy if the Cavs struggle this season? Seems like that is up to him.
Which way do you think Waiters will be judged come season’s end?