Fear the Sword Writers Debate Dion Waiters, Jeremy Lamb and Cavaliers Rebuilding Strategy

July 18, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Houston Rockets guard Jeremy Lamb (1) during the first half of the game against the Chicago Bulls at Cox Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

I got into a bit of a Twitter argument with fellow Fear the Sword contributor Patrick Elder about new Cleveland Cavaliers Shooting Guard Dion Waiters the other night, and got to thinking that 140 characters just wasn't enough. We sent a few emails back and forth to one another and hashed out our arguments in a bit more depth. This article is that email conversation unaltered. It took quite a bit of reserve on my part to not change all of his arguments so that he looks silly and I look smart and victorious, but I fought the urge successfully. I started things off with the original email below. Follow the jump to see Patrick's response and the full back and forth.

Dear Mr. Elder,

As most Cavs fans know at this point, the drafting of Dion Waiters with the number four overall choice in this Summer's NBA Draft was both surprising and a little bit controversial. While lots of people see different skills in different players, and different weaknesses in different players, most of the people who followed the college game and drafting process didn't have Waiters as a top 5 pick. In fact, many didn't have him in the top 10. On Draft Express they listed Waiters' ceiling in the pros to be Rodney Stuckey. The comparison makes sense on a few levels. Both are smallish combo guards who can score a little bit, sometimes efficiently, and don't add too much else. There are, of course, some caveats to this. Waiters projects as a plus defender and is a bit bigger. The other thing to add, and I say this as a guy who lives an hour from Detroit and watches them quite a bit, is that Rodney Stuckey is actually a pretty good basketball player in stretches. Still, Rodney Stuckey is not what Cavaliers fans are hoping for from Dion Waiters, and that is what is listed as his ceiling.

So, after going back and forth a bit on twitter about this, I have a few questions for you. If Harrison Barnes and Jeremy Lamb have strong rookie seasons, are Cavaliers fans allowed to gripe? If, after what was quite frankly a miserable Summer League outing for Waiters, and highly successful Summer League debuts for Lamb and Barnes, I am already on the fence about Waiters and upset about the pick, is that alright? I plan on cheering for Waiters and think he can be a pretty good player, so that isn't the issue. Anyways, let me know what you think.

Sincerely,
David Zavac

Patrick: I suppose it really isn't my place to say what other people should feel. Everyone's entitled to their own opinions and feelings, and I understand that. I, however, will not be upset with the Cavs' front office no matter what happens. I've been on board with the Waiters pick ever since the minute it took me to get over my shock at it. And anyways, I don't think it's fair to have any type of judgment at this point. I won't get upset regardless, but I will be perfectly understanding if people are upset if he busts. What I can't understand - and won't ever understand - is the premature judgment of the pick. We have such a small sample size to judge Dion on, in a situation in which he was out of shape (not a good thing, but something I'm not concerned will be an issue in the future) and was without the ball-dominant point guard he had practiced with all week. If anything, I think his Summer League was a good thing, tempering his brashness, and motivating him further to prove everyone wrong.


And as much as I love DraftExpress, the comparisons they put forth are often absolutely ridiculous. Best case for Damian Lillard is George Hill? Best case for Austin Rivers is OJ Mayo? These aren't best cases, these are middle cases. Or whatever you'd call that. Dion Waiters' best case in my opinion is Dwyane Wade lite. Will he get there? Probably not. But that's a best case scenario.

No matter what Jeremy Lamb or Harrison Barnes does, I'm not going to compare Dion to them. I was on board with the selection when it happened (despite my not having predicted it), I'm on board with it now, and I'm not going to switch to blaming the front office if it doesn't work out in the end.

David: All pretty good points. Looking at the Summer League and making snap judgments is dumb. Part of the problem for Cavaliers fans is we were genuinely the fan base most excited about Summer League this year. We thought Kyrie Irving was going to play, we have two rookies in Waiters and Zeller, and people wanted to see if Tristan Thompson was going to be able to improve. We saw bits and pieces of Tristan doing well, and Zeller didn't disappoint, but it ended up being a little too much like the regular season; we all sat around and tried to convince ourselves that Samardo Samuels or Donald Sloan were somehow functional basketball players based on a few good plays here or there. And Waiters, the guy who everyone described as a tireless worker and gym rat, wasn't ready to play.


But there is a college record to look at. Without beating a dead horse, Jeremy Lamb is bigger than Waiters, won a National Championship, is a better shooter, is probably close to Waiters in overall athleticism, and projects as a better defender. And people get paid to evaluate players based on their skill sets, and people get paid to make judgments about who will be good in three years. What I mean is, the players don't get randomly assigned to teams, and then after three years of playing in the pros, get drafted in the order of how was bad way back when. The Cavaliers don't get to wait three years to decide if Waiters is better than Lamb. They had to decide in July. Chris Grant gets paid enough money to be held accountable if it doesn't work out.

Your points about Draft Express were dead on. To move in a bit of a different direction, what do you think about the Cavaliers quiet free agency so far? Are you down for another year of watching Sloan and Samardo try and prove they belong in the Association, or do you wish the Cavaliers had brought in guys who are a bit more established?

Patrick: A player's physical attributes don't always lead to a better player. Waiters gets to the rim at will, that's why we took him over Jeremy Lamb or Harrison Barnes. And I don't put any stock in winning national championships. They mean absolutely nothing.


But enough about that. To answer your last questions, I'm a proponent of putting together the core of the team while completely ignoring role players and other complementary pieces in free agency and trades. Stay as bad as possible until the core of the team is assembled, then add the necessary pieces to complete a contender. The only exception to this is keeping role players and complementary pieces that are already on the team. So as long as we retain Alonzo Gee, I'll chalk this up as a perfect summer for the Cavs.

The only thing that could make it better would be if we trade for Andrew Bynum. I think that we should trade for him regardless of the situation with his contract. He won't sign an extension no matter where he is. That's just good business. But there are several factors working in the Cavs' favor, the first being that they can pay Bynum more than anyone else, and they will do so. Second, we were already one of Bynum's preferred destinations if you put any stock in that report. Third, we have Kyrie Irving. Give him a season of catching passes from Kyrie and I don't think he'll want to go anywhere else. And lastly, Tyler Zeller. I know, you're thinking, "why would that factor into Bynum's decision?" Well, consider who Bynum's been used to playing alongside in the frontcourt nearly his whole career: Pau Gasol. Pau is a great passing big man, and guess who else is: Tyler Zeller. I think Zeller's ability to stretch the floor and pass so well will allow Bynum to maintain a degree of familiarity to his old playing style.
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