Dion Waiters and the State of Shooting Guard Play in the NBA

July 17, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dion Waiters (3) drives to the basket as Phoenix Suns forward Matt Howard (54) defends during the game at the Thomas and Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE


The Shooting Guard position has been a problem for the Cleveland Cavaliers for a really, really long time. Though the problem has been persistent, it isn't for lack of trying on the part of the Front Office. Both Dajuan Wagner and Larry Hughes had huge expectations when they came to Cleveland, and for a variety of reasons, failed to meet them. More recently Anthony Parker, Delonte West, and Daniel Gibson have tried to fill the position, and, regardless of what you think of each individual, the position has more often than not seen sub-par performance. But there is a caveat, and its a pretty big one. Quite frankly, there just aren't that many good Shooting Guards in the world right now, and many teams lack one. Only two of them rated in the top 10 of Estimated Wins Added (EWA) last season, Dwyane Wade at 9, and Kobe Bryant at 10. Some might argue that Bryant and Wade are both still top 5 players, but injuries and age have started to slow both down. Upon closer reflection, the problem is even more severe; only three of the top 33 players in EWA played Shooting Guard. And this is where Dion Waiters comes in. Waiters may or may not be the star the Cavaliers want to put next to Kyrie Irving. But whether or not he can escape the relative mediocrity that most teams put on the court at the Shooting Guard position will play a major factor in the Cavaliers efforts to get better. And that might be the fair standard.

Did you know only three Shooting Guards in the NBA had a higher Player Efficiency Rating (PER) than Kyrie Irving last season? The aforementioned Wade and Bryant were joined by Manu Ginobili, with James Harden finishing right behind. It may not be fair to expect Waiters to get into the rarefied air of some of these players. But the simple fact of the matter is that if Waiters even becomes a pretty functional NBA player with the efficiency he displayed his Sophomore year at Syracuse, he can end up being a very valuable player. Let's take a look at the top 15 Shooting Guards according to John Hollinger last year according to PER:

1. Dwyane Wade - 26.37

2. Manu Ginobili - 24.18

3. Kobe Bryant - 21.95

4. James Harden - 21.13

5. Joe Johnson - 18.50

6. Monta Ellis - 17.53

7. Marcus Thornton - 17.43

8. Kevin Martin - 16.60

9. Paul George - 16.55

10. Chauncey Billups - 16.10

11. Gerald Green - 15.88

12. Jason Terry - 15.80

12. Jamal Crawford - 15.80

14. George Hill - 15.77

15. Tony Allen - 15.70

Some of these players have immediate asterisks. Chauncey Billups is barely a Shooting Guard and coming off the injury its hard to know what to expect of him. Terry and Crawford are gunners who are at a stage of their career where starter's minutes aren't really feasible. It is possible to see Gerald Green continue to develop, but its just as likely as last year was an anomaly. Kevin Martin is a much less effective player than he was even two years ago. It remains to be seen what role Monta Ellis could play on a contender. Even if you take all of these players at face value, the players in the 11-15 range are barely better than league average.

And this is why I believe that Dion Waiters may end up being a value pick. Did the Cavaliers take him a little bit higher than the average fan (or me) was ready for? Sure. But if Waiters becomes even a pretty good NBA player, he will be better than most of the starting Shooting Guards in the league. We obviously don't know if that is going to happen, but it is important to look at the context of the state of the position right now. It is a lot of guys who don't play defense that take a lot of jump shots and aren't all that efficient, or guys who are situational stoppers who come in and play solid defense. Waiters projects as a guy with the athleticism and size to stay in front of 2-guards, and he does a good amount of his damage scoring the basketball by attacking the basket. In today's NBA, where hand-check rules have only served to make driving easier and more important, Waiters could be a serious asset. Furthermore, he appears to have good court vision and gets to play with an excellent shooter and distributor in Kyrie Irving, and some bigs who can get up the floor in Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller.

But it goes both ways. The fact that there aren't many good Shooting Guards means that it must be pretty difficult to be a good Shooting Guard nowadays. It seems to be a bit strange that in a time when the Point Guard position has perhaps never been stronger, that Shooting Guards would suffer. Many have wanted to compare Waiters to Wade, taking into account body size and their penchant for getting to the rim. I think Waiters can be a rich man's Delonte West. The ability to guard both Point Guards and Shooting Guards, a certain physicality and willingness to distribute, and an aptitude for getting their own shot. Whereas Delonte has that little step-back move, Waiters can be the bulldog that imposes his will on opposing defenses. There are random times in games where West will take over the game for three of four possessions and string together 6-8 points in a short amount of time. Waiters can do that on steroids.

There is plenty of time for adding stars to the Cavaliers roster. The team has been so thin in recent years that perhaps we lose sight of the fact that the team simply needs to add good basketball players to the team. Dion Waiters has a pretty decent chance at being an above-average Shooting Guard, and that is probably enough. For now.

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