I was there. I was there, in the Q, when the Cavaliers drafted Kyrie Irving with the first pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. It was an amazing scene, the Q was filled with fans celebrating and cheering for the kid that would hopefully lead the Cavaliers back to relevance. I was also there tonight when the Cavaliers selected Dion Waiters with the fourth overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. It was a little different.
While I didn't boo the pick, I wasn't happy. A few moments later a cameraman came over and asked if I'd like to say a few things about what I thought about the pick. I declined. There were kid's there and the thoughts going through my head weren't exactly family-friendly. Fellow Fear the Sword writer Patrick declined. Jeff, a fellow writer from I GO HARD NOW, also declined. The seven others with us all declined. The cameraman moved on to the group sitting in front of us. The scene repeated itself.
By the time the Draft Party was over, I didn't see a single reaction video from the audience.
Despite the fact that I made sure to charge my phone prior to leaving work, it still died as I furiously refreshed Twitter waiting to hear that we were trading or doing something other than winding up with Dion Waiters. I mean, the kid didn't even start in College and the Cavs were picking him up to be the second option next to Kyrie? Seemed like a stretch to me. Eventually, it dawned on me that the Cavaliers were going to keep him, and that I'd be seeing Waiters in the Wine and Gold next season.
I was mad. I thought of Marvin Williams, another Chris Grant pick, and shuddered. The situations were similar with Williams being selected well above where anyone else projected with the second overall pick, leaving Chris Paul on the board. And here we were, with Dion Waiters being drafted fourth in a surprise, leaving Harrison Barnes on the table.
The Q emptied pretty quickly. The news of the Tyler Zeller trade accelerated matters. "We gave up our entire draft for him?!" seemed to be the general sentiment. I didn't get the outrage. The Cavaliers gave up two Canton Charge players to get arguably the best player to go in the second half of the first round. I was cool with it. I was in the minority.
The Q emptied so fast, that the raffle to end the evening was rushed and started after the 24th pick. Unfortunately, so many people had left that it took nearly 20 numbers to raffle off three items. The TVs were never turned back to the draft and we all shambled out into the sickeningly hot Cleveland evening, shaking our heads and muttering under our breath.
As the first round had still not finished, I turned to the drone of talk radio to keep up with what was happening on the way home. Call after call, Cavs fans were not happy.
"He didn't start a game all season!"
"He never worked out for the team!"
"Chris Grant never even spoke to him!"
Hearing those same thoughts reflected in the voices of the callers triggered something in me. I don't even like college basketball. These thoughts, everything I think about the draft and who's available, has come second hand through reading or listening to others. And honestly, up until last night when rumors that the Cavaliers had Waiters much higher on their draft board than anyone thought, I hadn't read anything about Waiters whatsoever. I liked Bradley Beal because I read about Bradley Beal. I liked Michael Kidd-Gilchrist because I read about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. I didn't like Dion Waiters because I nevr read about Dion Waiters.
Now that I'm home and I've had a chance to read some articles on him, I'm coming around on him. I've heard enough people whose opinion I respect talk positively about Waiters to get over my initial hesitations. Am I comfortable with the fact that he never worked out for the Cavs? No. Do I like the fact that the Cavaliers have never spoken to him? Nope. Do I think that Waiters can fit in with the Cavs and be a solid player? Maybe.
Chris Grant and his team live and breath basketball. Unlike someone like myself who simply moonlights as a sports writer, Chris Grant has access that I don't. While I fit this in when I'm not at work, this is Chris Grant's work. By all reasons and estimates, Dion Waiters could very well be the best guy for the Cavs that was available at the four. Negativity and pessimism are a natural reaction when a surprise like this happens, but after the shock wears off, it's time for more reasoned thought and reflection.
All we can do is trust in the process and watch how it plays out. It was fun to do that last year with Kyrie and Tristan. We can hope it'll be the same this year with Dion and Tyler.