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ESPN projects Dion Waiters as a top-5 shooting guard

ESPN's Bradford Doolittle projects Cavs guard Dion Waiters as a top-5 shooting guard ahead of the 2013-14 season.

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN's Bradford Doolittle is currently projecting the top-10 players at each position ahead of the 2013-2014 season. The Cavaliers figure they have Kyrie Irving at point guard (he was slotted at No. 5 yesterday), LeBron James at small forward and Kevin Love will soon be at power forward. But today, in a bit of a surprise, Doolittle projected Cavs guard Dion Waiters as the No. 5 shooting guard in the NBA next season. Doolittle wrote the following about Waiters (ESPN Insider only):

Waiters is a combined minus-0.4 WARP during his two NBA seasons, so the system might be a little optimistic with this forecast. What the metrics might be missing is the intrinsic value of Waiters' ability to create offense. Despite a well-below-average true shooting percentage, Waiters' offensive RPM has been positive in both his seasons and reached plus-1.8 last year. If the optimism of his forecast proves to be warranted, it's a scary proposition for the rest of the NBA. Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving clocked in at No. 5 in our rankings yesterday. It's probably not spoiling anything to tell you that James and Kevin Love will rate very high at their respective positions as well. If Waiters really develops into a top-five shooting guard, that will be something to see.

This put Waiters ahead of a handful of notable players, namely Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors, Lance Stephenson of the Indiana Pacers, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers and, in case you were wondering, Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards. The top five was James Harden of the Houston Rockets, Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat, Monta Ellis of the Dallas Mavericks and Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls.

It would be logical for Waiters to improve this season and possibly drastically. He's heading into his third year in the NBA (normally the "leap year" for a young player) and playing with the most talented roster he's had in his NBA career. He also showed flashes last season of being an impactful two-way player. But for Waiters to be a top-five shooting guard this season, he would have to make some serious improvements.