Breaking It Down: Dion Waiters and his shot selection vs. the Lakers

USA TODAY Sports

Dr. Waiters: Or How I Learned to Stop Loving the Shot and Worry about his Development

Dion Waiters' shot selection this year has been the target of ample criticism from both national and local writers. He has no conscience when it comes to shooting, and Fear The Sword's own Angelo Benedetti has finally reached the point of calling him "YOLO ISO" due to the fact that his motto on the offensive end seems to be, "Well, you only live once, might as well go iso and shoot this 20 footer!" Here is Dion's shot chart for the season so far this season (taken from NBA.com), and let me warn you that it is truly not pretty:

Screen_shot_2013-01-15_at_12

Waiters is shooting at an above average clip in only three zones (out of a possible 14), and is only 5% above average in two of those zones. This is problematic for a guy who is taking the 10th most shots in the NBA per 36 minutes (among qualified players). In fact, over 200 of his shots this year have been taken from zones where he is shooting at least 10% worse than the league average.

Sunday night against the Lakers was a particularly egregious version of Waiters' already infamous chucking tendencies. In 25 minutes of playing time, Waiters hoisted 18 shots while only making seven. Compare this to Kyrie Irving, who shot only 15 times in 34 minutes. Let me reiterate that again. In nine fewer minutes of playing time, Waiters took three more shots than one of the most lethal basketball players on the planet while Irving was being guarded mostly by an older Kobe Bryant who was giving minimal effort defensively. Among these shots, Waiters was blocked three times at the rim and took three other shots that didn't hit the rim at all.

I've decided to go through and take a look at every shot that Waiters took against the Lakers and look at how terrible shot selection is affecting his game. Also, I'll give ratings on how difficult the shot was, and how stupid it was to take the shot. The higher number on the stupidity mark means it was dumber, and the higher mark on the difficulty mark means the shot was more difficult. So in review: high numbers bad, low numbers good. Got it? Let's begin.

Shot #1: At the five minute mark, Waiters begins running off of screens being set for him by Tyler Zeller and Alonzo Gee while being guarded by Metta World Peace. He has a step on World Peace (I feel so bad for people who write about the Lakers and have to write that absurd name constantly) when he receives the ball on the wing and begins to drive into the paint. Even though the help defense has arrived in the presence of Earl Clark, Waiters gets to the foul line, and throws up a one handed floater. I would give you guys the video on this shot (which I will do for some shots later), but I don't want your retinas to burn out. The ball doesn't come close to hitting the rim, and we're off to a rip-roaring start for him tonight. 0/1.

Shot Selection Stupidity: 7/10

Shot Difficulty: 8/10

Shot #2: Waiters is being guarded by Clark this time. He brings the ball up the floor and passes to Luke Walton, who dribbles to the other side of the floor. Walton hands the ball off to Gee, who realizes that Clark has sagged too far off of Waiters. Waiters, in his most efficient spot on the floor (the right wing behind the three-point arc), takes an open three that rims out. This is a good shot from a good spot that just didn't fall. 0/2.

Shot Selection Stupidity: 1/10

Shot Difficulty: 3/10

Shot #3: Waiters receives the ball on the left wing behind the three point arc while being guarded again by Clark. Clark, being a taller guy, gives up some quickness to Waiters. So he plays off of him a little bit. Waiters takes one dribble inside the three point line, and hoists a 20 footer. At 6'10," Clark is easily able to make this shot difficult by contesting it with his long arms, and Waiters clangs it off the front of the rim. 0/3.

Shot Selection Stupidity: 10/10

Shot Difficulty: 8/10

Shot #4: Irving starts a 3-on-2 fastbreak with Waiters as the third guy down the court trailing the play a little bit. After being stopped at 12 foot mark, Irving passes to Waiters who catches it at the right elbow. He proceeds to drive into Clark where he drives under the basket (no really, he is literally UNDER the basket after his leap). Clark swats the ball back into his face. Irving picks up the loose ball and starts a half court set. I don't find this to be a particularly stupid shot, as any time he goes to the rim I'm pretty happy, but it was a badly executed one where he made life more difficult on himself. 0/4.

Shot Selection Stupidity: 4/10

Shot Difficulty: 9/10

Shot #5:

Dion Waiters Shot 5 (via Sam Vecenie)

Waiters brings the ball up the floor to the left wing, where he gets an excellent pick set for him by power forward Tristan Thompson. Waiters has only Robert Sacre to beat in front of him and only Antawn Jamison (so in other words, the chair that Yi Jianlian used to in his pre-draft workouts) to beat as help defense in the lane. With only Chris Duhon under the hoop to help once he inevitably beats Sacre off the dribble, Waiters gets to the hoop and finishes a layup. This is a great example of a good shot from Waiters. 1/5.

Shot Selection Stupidity: 1/10

Shot Difficulty: 1/10

Shot #6:

Dion Waiters Shot 6 (via Sam Vecenie)

Waiters, this time guarded by Darius Morris, receives the ball at the top of the key with nine seconds left on the shot clock. This is going to end up being some sort of Waiters shot here (because he is "YOLO ISO"), as everyone else is just standing still on offense. The key is whether or not it's just going to be difficult. Waiters drives into the paint, but apparently doesn't see Dwight Howard manning the middle of the paint. Instead of stopping and pulling up from 7-9 feet once he's beaten Morris, he drives right into Howard and Clark. He also has the option of hitting a cutting Shaun Livingston once Clark leaves his feet. As you can see, Waiters makes the wrong decision here and Howard swats the ball out of bounds. 1/6.

Shot Selection Stupidity: 5/10

Shot Difficulty: 8/10

Shot #7: Immediately after having his shot blocked by Howard, the Cavs ran an inbounds play from below the basket. Waiters got free from his man and missed an open three from the left corner as the shot clock went down. He was open with the shot clock running down, so no problem with this. 1/7.

Shot Selection Stupidity: 1/10

Shot Difficulty: 3/10

Shot #8: Omri Casspi rebounded the ball and hit a streaking Waiters down the floor. The Lakers had two men back, but both overran Waiters, who got an easy dunk in transition. 2/8.

Shot Selection Stupidity: 1/10

Shot Difficulty: 1/10

Shot #9:

Dion Waiters Shot 9 (via Sam Vecenie)

Waiters receives the ball on the left wing and runs a pick and roll with Thompson. Howard, who was guarding Thompson, does not hedge the screen. Instead, he stays underneath and dares Waiters to shoot the 19 foot jumper with 16 seconds left on the shot clock. A lot of teams are starting to do this more often (then again, it's not like Waiters has shown the ability to finish at the rim, especially on a guy like Howard, so it's not like it matters). Waiters obliges, and clangs one off the back rim. I would very much prefer that Waiters swings this to someone else when there's so much time left on the shot clock. 2/9.

Shot Selection Stupidity: 6/10

Shot Difficulty: 3/10

Shot #10:

Dion Waiters Shot #10 (via Sam Vecenie)

Irving brings the ball down the floor and swings it around the horn to Waiters. In a true ball-stopping fashion, Waiters looks at World Peace, takes a rhythm dribble, and shoots the ball with a hand in his face with 15 seconds left on the shot clock. This one went in, but that doesn't make it an effective shot even if he did take it from the right wing, where he tends to be a more effective shooter. 3/10.

Shot Selection Stupidity: 8/10

Shot Difficulty: 7/10

Shot #11:

Dion Waiters Shot #11 (via Sam Vecenie)

Just like the last one, Waiters gets the ball on the wing (this time on the left side) and takes a rhythm dribble and shoots it directly in front of World Peace's hand. It goes in again, but this is another shot that is not necessarily sustainable. I would much rather have preferred that with nine seconds on the shot clock he would have swung it to Irving (down in the corner here) and let Irving try to create something for himself or someone else. Also, as I said above Waiters is not as strong a shooter from the left side as he is from the right (he shoots about 10% better from the right wing than he does from the left), which makes this more difficult. 4/11.

Shot Selection Stupidity: 7/10

Shot Difficulty: 7/10

Shot #12: Waiters grabs a loose ball and dribbles all the way down the floor past another awful transition defense. In this scenario, Jamison is the culprit of not stopping the ball (surprise, surprise). He lazily tries to rake the ball and Waiters' arms as he goes up for an easy layup. Waiters makes the easy layup and he's getting dangerously close to shooting 50% on the night. 5/12

Shot Selection Stupidity: 1/10

Shot Difficulty: 1/10

Shot #13: Waiters gets the ball about 10 feet from the right wing with 39 seconds left in the quarter. Thinking this is a good opportunity for a 2-for-1 (it's still too early in the shot clock for that in my view but okay), Waiters takes one dribble between his legs and one rhythm dribble with his left hand then rises and fires a 20 footer that magically banks in as both Jamison and Clark have hands in his face. I honestly have no idea how this ball went in the hoop. 6/13.

Shot Selection Stupidity: 9/10

Shot Difficulty: 9/10

Shot #14: Casspi gets an offensive rebound off of a miss by Shaun Livingston and dishes it to a wide open Luke Walton at the top of the key. Walton swings it to a wide open Waiters on the right wing who catches and shoots (surprisingly doesn't take his patented rhythm dribble). Finally! Dion has hit the 50% mark for the night. He brings the Cavs to within 14 with 11 minutes to go in the game (a very doable margin). Unfortunately this would be as close as they would get, and the last shot that Waiters would make. 7/14.

Shot Selection Stupidity: 1/10

Shot Difficulty: 4/10

Shot #15:

Dion Waiters Shot 15 (via Sam Vecenie)

Next time down the floor on offense for the Cavs, Waiters gets the ball on the left wing. Morris is a little bit late closing out on Waiters and there's only nine seconds left on the shot clock. If he was going to take a shot here, I would have preferred him to catch and shoot the three pointer. But no. Waiters decides to let Morris close out on him and get in his face. Waiters takes one rhythm dribble just to make sure his foot is on the three point line, takes a contested 22 footer which hits absolutely nothing. A clear heat check, and a clear sign that his hot streak from earlier in the second half was over. 7/15.

Shot Selection Stupidity: 10/10

Shot Difficulty: 9/10

Shot #16:

Dion Waiters #16 (via Sam Vecenie)

Ugh. Waiters comes off of a double screen by Zeller and Casspi and receives the ball on the left wing. Instead of continuing his curl towards the paint and letting his momentum take him into what would be an open 16 foot jumper or maybe even possibly getting into the lane for a (probably difficult) shot at the rim, Waiters inexplicably turns over his right shoulder and pivots on his right foot. If he thinks he couldn't get an open shot and is planning on swinging it, okay this makes sense. But by doing this, he allows Morris to catch up to get in his face. Instead of playing within the offense, Waiters hoists a 21 foot jumper with a hand in his face, which only hits the backboard. This is his dumbest shot and decision of the night which is truly saying something. I hate myself for doing this exercise. 7/16.

Shot Selection Stupidity: 15/10

Shot Difficulty: 8/10

Shot #17:

Dion Waiters 17 (via Sam Vecenie)

Waiters comes off of a screen and gets the ball on the left wing. He briskly walks around a lazy screen by Walton and is now being guarded by Clark, who switched onto him. He gets a step on Clark after a crossover and tries to get to the rim. Instead of looking to dish it off (there are three people in the paint and a fourth in the edge of the left block, he just attempts to attack the rim. Instead of scoring, he drives into Clark and the now rim-protecting Howard. Clark gets to the ball first, and swats it out of bounds. 7/17

This shot made me realize something about the way Waiters drives to the hoop. He doesn't ever utilize the jump stop. Instead, he simply lets his momentum carry him away from the basket and away from contact. I believe this is why there are few fouls called when Waiters drives to the bucket. Utilizing a jump stop in the future could create more possibilities for foul shots in the future. It could also create fewer difficult shots where his momentum doesn't take him away from the basket.

Shot Selection Stupidity: 7/10

Shot Difficulty: 10/10

Shot #18: Irving passes the ball to Walton at the top of the key where he faces up to shoot a wide open three. Jamison, guarding Waiters, helps off of Waiters in order to get a hand in his face. Walton swings it to a wide open Waiters on the right wing. Waiters just misses the shot. Totally fine shot. 7/18.

Shot Selection Stupidity: 1/10

Shot Difficulty: 3/10

****************************

Right now, I think it's pretty clear that Waiters is pressing and trying too hard to get going. Another thing this proved is that Waiters' streakiness both helps and burns the Cavs (mostly burns them) depending on the moment. The Cavs can't have him taking more shots than Irving most nights, especially when eight of them are absolutely terrible shots that no one should ever be taking in a game. He needs to learn that 20-23 footers are the least efficient shot in the NBA. If he's going to take them, he should be taking a step back and making them threes (no really, I did the research. Taking threes instead of long twos correlates to a better offense). He has decreased the amount of threes he's taken this season from 5.3 per game in November to 2.9 in January, but he also has increased the amount of long twos he's taken from 3.3 in November to 4.4 in January. He needs to stop taking random contested jumpers with 14 seconds left on the shot clock. And he needs to start becoming better around the rim by drawing contact and getting to the foul line more often. Until he learns to do these things, we're going to see the same inconsistent Dion Waiters we've seen this year.

*Just as a footnote because this is going to be released after Waiters' most efficient game of the season: he did it against Isaiah Thomas and Jimmer Fredette. Also, the Kings have the second worst opponents' field goal percentage at the rim in the NBA at 67.3% (three guesses which team has the worst and I'll give you a hint, it comes close to rhyming with Sieveland), and foul more than all but five teams in the NBA. For him to get going against Sacramento is unsurprising to me. It's a good sign, but it's not something that should have been totally unexpected with his inconsistency. We know the guy is insanely skilled. It's the mental game and his decision-making that seems to be the issue.

Basically, what it comes down to is he needs to make that earlier shot chart look like THIS:

Screen_shot_2013-01-15_at_1

**All video taken from Synergy, shot zone data from NBA.com, and all footnoted information taken from HoopData.com

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