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Is Dion Feeling the Sixth Man Role?

Lebron James

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

At the beginning of the season, Dion Waiters was seen as the Cleveland Cavaliers’ starting Shooting Guard and alongside Kyrie Irving, be a part of one of the best backcourts in the NBA. Three games in, however, Dion Waiters was relegated to a bench role in favor of veteran forward Shawn Marion.

Marion struggled in the Jazz game with a scoreless outing, but played well defensively to finish with 3 blocks. Waiters didn’t do much else, finishing with 5 points and an assist in 13 minutes off the bench. Marion seemed to mesh well with the starting lineup in the loss and was even better against the Denver Nuggets. Shawn Marion finished with 10 points on 4-6 shooting and 6 rebounds against Denver.

Dion Waiters played extremely well against Denver off the bench, efficiently scoring 17 points in 24 minutes. In the closing minutes of the game, he made two huge plays on both ends of the floor to seal it for Cleveland:

Waiters looked confident in his shot and was a key scoring spark off the bench for the Cavs when they needed him to be, even if he did finish shooting 43% at 6-14. With this performance, it’s safe to assume that the Cavaliers could be much better with Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson both coming off the bench.

{adinserter 2}With Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Anderson Varejao, and Shawn Marion in the starting lineup, the Cavs have a good combination of off-ball movement in Marion, James, and Varejao. Having Irving at the guard allows LeBron James to work the post while Kevin Love floats around the 3-point line. Likewise, Love can work the ball down low while James floats around the perimeter, occasionally making those random cuts to the basket. Anderson Varejao and Shawn Marion are both very solid on ball defenders who do the dirty work, giving the Cavaliers an offensive and defensive balance.

With Dion Waiters coming off the bench, the Cavaliers get a much needed ball handler who can create open looks for himself as well as his teammates. The most similar situation would be the bench role of Jamal Crawford on the Los Angeles Clippers. Crawford has been a starter for most of his career, but was made the first player off the bench for the Clippers with L.A. having a very good offensive and defensive balance in their starting lineup.

Jamal won the Sixth Man of the Year award last year after being an absolute offensive spark off the bench, and if Waiters can continue to thrive as the first player off the bench handling the ball more than others, the Cavs could see an uptick in their bench’s overall production. For now, it seems the best place for Dion to start is on the bench, allowing the starters to get theirs before he comes in and provides a nightly scoring punch the Cavaliers will surely need.

On Sunday, during the open media availability, Waiters was asked if he was upset when told he was going to the sixth man role, to which he responded:

“No, I knew it was going to happen sooner or later. I was actually thinking about it myself, is it better for the team? I went to Coach and told him it might just be better for me to come off the bench, by myself. At the end of the day I’m still growing, still learning, especially with this team, this offense, and the time we’ve had.”

“Being the player that I am, you need the ball. So I thought about it and it made a lot of sense just for me to come off the bench and do what I do. That’s why it was smooth sailing for me just to come off the bench and bring that spark.”

It seems as though Dion Waiters will take on this sixth man role with his head held high as it might be a new opportunity to be a scoring spark on a championship contending team. Just the fact that he walked up to Coach Blatt to discuss coming off the bench for the betterment of the team as well as himself, shows the maturation that many have expected with the arrival of LeBron James.

“I’ve got to [settle into the sixth man role]. I have to do whatever it takes for the team. I’m fine with it. I’ve been through it before my first two years so I can adjust to it easily.”

The Land