In case you haven't noticed, there have been some people who have criticized the selection of Dion Waiters for a number of reasons. Most of these people believe that it would have been much more sensible to select Harrison Barnes over Dion Waiters. Even though Barnes might look better on paper, one must only look to stats to give a better answer.
For starters, Waiters is a much better, and much more efficient scorer than Barnes. Despite Barnes' reputation as a lethal scorer, he only averaged 20.8 points per 36 minutes on 44% shooting. Meanwhile, Dion Waiters averaged 18.8 points per game on 47.6% shooting. The argument that Harrison Barnes is just a much more polished scorer is nonsensical. Barnes may have scored more, but if a player cannot be efficient in college, then it seems a little far-fetched to assume that Barnes will suddenly morph into an efficient scorer.
Now, i can hear you thinking, "wait, did you see Waiters in Summer League? He was an inefficient chucker who can't shoot!" Barnes has a reputation (much like Brad Beal) as a lethal shooter with almost limitless range. But this reputation is not borne out by the stats. Barnes shot 35.8% from 3 last year, and Waiters shot 36.3% from 3 last year. In other words, Waiters was a much better shooter than Barnes was last year. This might come as a surprise to the many people who were talking about Dion's 'broken shot' during the summer league open threads, but Dion's shot, regardless of his unusual form, was much more successful than Barnes' shot.
In my opinion, Waiters' superior scoring comes from a very simple, yet extremely critical difference between the two players. If you watched Barnes' tournament performance, his weaknesses were revealed most drastically. Although I do not normally take the NCAA too seriously when it comes to player evaluation, Barnes really struggled when Kendall Marshall got hurt. The reason? Barnes is a terrible ball handler, and this lack of handling ability strongly mitigates his ability to create off of isolations or pick and rolls. Without Kendall Marshall available to 'set him up' for a shot he was comfortable with. This is not good. In the NBA, you cannot be an all-star, or even a good starter if you do cannot beat your man off the dribble. Meanwhile, Waiters was very efficient both in the pick and roll and in isolations, where he was able to get to the rim at ease and post .89 and .84 PPP respectively. His strength and finishing ability allowed him to shoot just over 51% on field goals at the rim. Barnes was also totally unable to make his teammates better, while waiters, despite playing off-guard, posted very respectable assist numbers. Barnes had 1.35 assists per 36 minutes, while Waiters posted 3.75 assists per 36 minutes.
I also think that Waiters is just a much better fit for the city of Cleveland. Waiters came to college as a total child, and he clashed with Boeheim a lot. Boeheim said to the media about Waiters during his freshman year, "He played no defense last year. Not some. None." But in his second year, Waiters became a much more active defender in his second year, and was back in favor with Boeheim. Even Waiters admitted to this change. He once said to the media, "I came to college as a kid, I left as a man." Waiters will still have a lot to work on when it comes to his defense. Although he is very active on defense, he gambles too much and is not used to playing man defense. For all of his faults, Waiters is actually a very hard worker. He has overcome a great deal of adversity, whether in his family or in basketball, and he has made it through. I have no doubt that he will be able to get better and really impact this team positively.
Barnes on the other hand, is a very different story. He was already getting Kobe comparisons coming out of high school, but never lived up to the hype. Despite this, he decided to create his own "black falcon" brand. Befitted with an embarrassing logo, "Black Falcon" Barnes seemed to spend more time developing his brand than really bettering his game. In fact, some guys in Barnes' camp admitted that his preferred destination was Golden State, because it was a bigger market. Maybe i'm wrong, but Cleveland does not have a great history with basketball players who are obsessed with their own brand.
In conclusion, i'm not trying to hate on Barnes when I say that Waiters will be the better NBA player. Maybe Barnes is Danny Granger. Maybe he is Martell Webster. I have no idea. But when it comes down to it, Waiters brings with him a much better college resume of performance. Waiters is a great slasher who will fit in great with Cleveland, and we will finally have a second guy who can actually create off the dribble instead of just giving Kyrie the ball and watching him score. If this article is not convincing enough, I invite you to be negative and decide that Waiters will be a bust before he has played in an NBA game, but if you look closely, I think you will change your mind.
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