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Dion Waiters: A Question Waiting to be Answered

Felipe Dana, AP

Perhaps what’s most appreciative about Dion Waiters is his fire; his relentless drive to become “The Best” with his sheer abundance of blazing (over) confidence. Though his devotion is apparent, how he’ll come to help the Cavaliers hinges largely on his up-tempo ego and oddly, his aforementioned ambition.

Last year’s train-wreck season was filled with constant chemistry concerns and toxic locker room meetings. This time around, Waiters seems poised and composed as he prepares for a season alongside the new firepower brought to the Land:

“I’m planning to go watch tape to see what D-Wade did when he played with LeBron. I need to learn how to be effective out there with him.”

As we have discussed, his motivation is present. What’s left is the question of what skills he brings to the table and how he uses those skillsets for the betterment of the team. Having already taken the approach to try and emulate Wade’s tangency with LeBron, Waiters has definitely taken a step in the right direction. It shows he’s willing to concede being an on-ball guard and focus on being a catalyst to the three superstars he’s playing with. So let’s get down to it.

{adinserter 2}We all know Waiters can score; he’s built his career on his ability to creating his own shot. Whether it’s the pull up 3 or drive to the basket, he has crafted himself into a scoring niche. Despite being a solid scoring option, he’s often been relegated to the bench, and given the sixth man responsibility. This isn’t because of some downtrodden performance on his part, but rather, a practical approach by his coaches. He’s a ball-dominating guard, and he would bring a spark off the bench by assuming the role of a Manu Ginobili/Jamal Crawford contributor. Assuming this role does prove to be effective, his statistics coming off the bench were synonymous to results as a start. However, assuming a sixth man role also clashes with his ego, and Waiters has made it clear that he won’t easy settle for that.

So would starting be the best option for Waiters, despite spending his entire college career and a part of his NBA career as a successful sixth man? It all depends on his willingness to concede to being the fourth option on offence. Assuming he does this and prioritizes his team’s success over his personal benefit, we’re left with analyzing his effectiveness.

As seen during his tenure with the Miami Heat, LeBron James plays best when he’s surrounded by perimeter shooting threats. Guys like Mike Miller, Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, and Ray Allen thrived alongside LeBron, and together, they proved to be an effective championship level offense. If Waiters wants to be the most effective he can be alongside LeBron, he’d be wise to acclimate himself more into an outside scoring threat than an assonance of Dwyane Wade.

Now the question is, can Waiters become a catch-and-shoot specialist? Last year, Waiters shot 37% from three-point range. That’s very solid. In fact, that qualifies Waiters as an issue for defenders, polarizing their attention on the perimeter from the other offensive monsters on the Cavs roster. For reference, Kyrie Irving (the 2013 three-point champion) shot 36% and Kevin Love (the 2012 three-point champion) shot 38% from three-point range.

We also have to consider that a good amount of Waiters’ shots came from pull-up shots, which is relatively more difficult than catch-and-shoot jumpers. Now that Waiters is playing alongside LeBron, we can expect him to resort to a lot less pull up shots, and be open for considerably more catch-and-shoot jumpers. Waiters shoots 42% on catch-and-shoot three pointers, which catapults him into the company of other elite shooters, such as Danny Green(41.5% C&S 3P%), Spencer Hawes(42.3% C&S 3P%), and JJ Redick(42.6% C&S 3P%).

dwaiters
Via ESPN

In fact, good three-point shooting is what separates Waiters from Wade. While Waiters is on the brink of mastering his outside shooting touch, Wade has consistently struggled as a three-point shooter his whole career. Wade shot 28% from 3-point range last year, and 29% for his whole career. In fact, he only made 9 three-pointers throughout all of last season while playing 54 games, not threatening anyone from 25+ feet from the basket. Within in 25 feet of the basket, Dion can provide just as much explosion as Wade:

Obviously, three-point shooting isn’t the only worthwhile skillset Waiters has in his repertoire. He’s a slasher who actively makes cuts, splits defenders and looks to drive to the rim; much the same way Wade does, though maybe not with the same level of elite ability. This past Saturday, Waiters filled a backcourt with no Kyrie Irving and little help from backup Point Guard Matthew Dellavedova in the Cavs’ Preseason contest against the Miami Heat. Facing off against Wade himself, Dion did struggle to facilitate teammates, especially early on with all starts on the court; but he showed Wade-like potential offensively, shooting 7-12 from the field. Remember, Waiters is only 22; the same age Wade was during his rookie season.

So there you have it. Coach David Blatt has a lot to think about in determining Waiter’s role as a spot-up shooter or leader of the bench. Either way, it’s a great problem to have if you’re a coach or a Cavs fan overanalyzing it all.

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