Player preview: Dion Waiters
Why did I pick Dion Waiters before those remaining?
When I bought my Chevy Cavalier last winter, I named it after Dion, because I had to name my Cavalier after a Cavalier, and I really liked Dion. So really, there was no other option.
The only other players I would have considered are Bynum and Varajao, but only if they had near perfect health. Dion should improve tremendously this year and should see his role expanded on defense and with running the offense at times. Put it this way: I expect him to play the third most minutes for the Cavaliers this year, and that’s why I think he’ll be the third most important Cavalier.
What does Dion Waiters bring to the team this year?
Obviously Kyrie Irving is pretty good at getting to the rim, but Dion Waiters still adds quite the slashing element. He really can be a very good offensive player.
It’s easy to dispute this with a simple look at his shooting percentages and a few game films. He shot .412% from the field and only .310% from deep and settled for way too many off balance midrange jumpers. This was quite a dip from his numbers at Syracuse, where he shot 47 and 36 his last year and was generally known as a great slasher.
It wasn’t just his offense that took a step back in his first pro season. Dion struggled mightily on defense after being known as a very good defender in college as evidenced by his 1.8 steals a game. So why did Dion take such a huge step back on both sides of the ball?
The easy answer is that a lot of people can score and defend in college but can’t in the NBA. But is this the most likely reason for Dion’s decline? I say that a lot of it had to do rather with the role that he was asked to play at Syracuse.
Jim Boeheim is known for running an excellent zone defense at Syracuse. It has worked for him for years, but it leaves former players at a disadvantage when asked to learn the nuances of an entirely different defensive scheme while also playing against better athletes. On offense, Dion was asked to be a spark plug off the bench rather than playing almost 30 minutes a game against far superior basketball players. I submit to you that Dion Waiters had a more difficult adjustment than any of us gave him credit for when he was struggling early in the season. I think his success on both sides of the ball at Syracuse shows that he has the talent and tools to produce in the NBA, and that is supported by his improvements in the second half of the season.
With that being said, I am expecting continued improvements this year on a large scale. I expect Waiter’s increased strength to allow him to finish better at the rim. I expect his experience to improve his shot selection and assist numbers. I expect his tireless work this offseason to allow him greater endurance, better shooting and better defense.
In short, I think Dion will be a huge part of the Cavaliers success this season with improvements across the board. You might think that this evaluation is overly optimistic, but I don’t think there’s anything in his track record to suggest that he isn’t bent on improving. When you combine Dion’s work ethic with his very real talent, you will get a very nice player eventually. Dion will take some big steps toward becoming that very nice player this season.
What is Dion Waiters’ long-term potential with the Cavaliers?
It’s pretty clear by now that I think Dion will improve a lot this year, but where will he plateau for the Cavaliers? As excited as I am for Dion’s development, I don’t really think he’ll shoot 40% from three or average 25 and 6. So what kind of player will Dion become?
Perhaps you have seen this comparison of Dion, Dwyane Wade and James Harden in their rookie seasons. While I have stated that Dion will improve even more than the average rookie because of the adjustment he has had to make from college to the NBA, I don’t think he’ll be as good as those two guys. But is that so bad? Those guys are absolutely amazing, special, once in a decade type players. Dion doesn’t have to be that good to be a great part of the Cavaliers’ future success.
I predict that Dion will become a very good defender and an above average scorer. He will be a great running mate for Kyrie Irving on offense, and be the stronger defender of the two. This will still take a couple of years to come to full fruition, but I think Dion will make multiple All Star games and help the Cavaliers be very successful in the years to come.