NBA Draft 2013: On Dion Waiters and why the Cavaliers should not pick Ben McLemore

Jamie Squire

There is a line of thinking that says you can't pick in the NBA draft based on need or fit. There is a separate line of thinking that Ben McLemore is the best prospect in the draft. Both are wrong, in my view, and McLemore shouldn't be Cleveland's first choice Thursday night.

If anyone out there should love Ben McLemore, it's me. He had a rough upbringing, and has helped to put a face on American poverty, something that we don't talk enough about in this country. His mother often had to choose between running water and food for her family. He hails from a city I care deeply about, St. Louis, Missouri. His older brother is in prison, and McLemore has had a lot of responsibility in taking care of his family. It isn't a given that people from this type of background, even with McLemore's talent level, will find themselves being considered as a top 10 draft pick. I admire him as an individual.

But I don't want him to play for Cleveland, at least not any time in the next 7 or 8 years. First, I don't believe that team's should draft purely on best player available, and most don't. Teams often put players into different tiers. If multiple players are in the same tier, they would then take the player who best fits with the roster as constructed. In this draft, I have Nerlens Noel in a tier by himself. The tier below probably includes some combination of McLemore, Trey Burke, Otto Porter, Alex Len, and Victor Oladipo. But even in I had McLemore in the same tier as Nerlens Noel, and maybe even thought McLemore was a little better than Noel, I would take into account the Cavaliers roster and come to the conclusion that Noel projects as a better fit.

Why would I do this? The Cavaliers have a starting shooting guard, and it looks like he is going to be pretty good. He might not be, but he has had one season in the NBA and improved dramatically as the season progressed. He was the 4th pick in the draft 12 months ago and has done nothing to prove that the pick was a mistake. He has a ways to go, but he looks like a starter in the NBA. Some people see him as a 6th man, usually offering two arguments to support this: he was a 6th man in college, and he is a ball-dominant guard who can't co-exist with Kyrie. I think both of these arguments have some serious problems.

Dion Waiters wasn't a sixth man because it led to Syracuse playing better basketball. He was the sixth man because he came into Syracuse with a bad attitude, thought he would be handed a starting role, and it didn't happen. Syracuse had veteran guards. After Waiters made the difficult decision to change his attitude and stay for another year and make it work, there wasn't a way for Jim Boeheim to bench older guards in favor of a younger player with a history of being a malcontent. At the end of games, Waiters was on the court. What I want to stress is that Waiters wasn't the sixth man because his basketball skills made that his best fit. He was the sixth man because of the age of Syracuse's guards, and because he originally had a bad attitude. In Cleveland, there are no reports of a bad attitude, and he works as hard as anyone that wears the Wine & Gold. In the same vein, there aren't any veteran guards that have earned the starting 2-guard role. Waiters is the Cavs' best shooting guard, and he should start.

Can Kyrie Irving and Waiters co-exist? I just don't think we have anywhere near enough information to make conclusions about that, but the early indications seem to be that they can. Waiters is effective with the ball in his hands, but he is also a good spot-up three point shooter. He will continue to improve his shooting efficiency and help spread the floor for Kyrie. A second player on the court to break down defenses with the ability to attack the basket counteracts defenses who want to load up to defend Irving. Both are gifted passers, and Irving is a transcendent shooter. Theoretically, they should be able to play together. They need time on the court together. Chemistry is not something that is natural, it is earned. Moving Dion to the bench doesn't help this.

Finally, there are some people who see Waiters wanting to start as him putting himself above the team, and as a selfish thing. I find this to be mostly ridiculous. If a guy the Cavaliers took in the top 5 last season was open to a bench role I would be upset. He thinks he can be one of the best players in the league, why would I want him accepting a lessened role? We praise athletes for having a killer instinct and being hyper-competitive, then want Waiters to be a backup point guard? Waiters is confident in his ability. If he wasn't, it would be a problem. He isn't entitled, he is working hard and is the best shooting guard on the team. Him wanting to be the starter should be commended, not denigrated.

But what if Ben McLemore was a transcendent talent, or in a tier all by himself? The Cavs would have to take him. Unfortunately, McLemore isn't that player. He is an unbelievable shooter. So is Anthony Morrow. He is an unbelievable athlete. He just doesn't often use it. His usage rate was incredibly low, which has led to him being labeled as passive. Somehow, some Cavaliers fans see this as a positive. "He doesn't need the ball in his hands to be effective! He can play off of Kyrie!" Except that his low usage rate means that he was less effective; he made less of an impact on the game. He had a turnover rate, which is an indication that it wasn't just a matter of being passive; he may not have the actual ability to do more without creating negative plays. Waiters is known for getting to the free throw line and maintaining a low turnover rate. McLemore is known for the opposite. In Kevin Pelton of ESPN's player rater, McLemore comes out as the 18th best prospect in the draft. He doesn't create turnovers defensively, which is a sign of quickness and athleticism that usually translates.

And don't get me started on the Ray Allen comparisons. Ray Allen had great handles, was a better passer, didn't turn it over, is the greatest shooter of all time, could attack the rim, and do many things that McLemore can't do. And he was doing them at the age that McLemore is now. Believe me, Allen was the first basketball player I watched play on a consistent basis, and am still a Connecticut basketball fan because of him. Ray Allen was far from just a shooter.

Now, McLemore certainly is explosive. And players have developed their ball handling once they got to the NBA. McLemore isn't a finished product, and the hope is that he can improve. But his college record does not scream "sure thing" to me. His workouts have reportedly been underwhelming, but I don't put much stock into that. The fact is, he has a long ways to go if he wants to be a star in the NBA, and may not be ready to start next season. Dion Waiters tweeted a few weeks ago that the notion of bringing in a shooting guard so that he could back the new guard up was disrespectful. I agree.

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