Waiting on Waiters.
October 20, 2012
Let’s just hope that Dion Waiters isn’t big on the importance of first impressions. Since being drafted 4th overall in June, Waiters’ first few months haven’t exactly endeared himself to Cavaliers fans—many of whom felt the Cavaliers should have opted for a more proven NCAA-proven player on draft night such as Harrison Barnes or Thomas Robinson.
Waiters initially got off on the wrong foot with Byron Scott by showing up for the Cavaliers’ Las Vegas Summer League looking like a less-fit Robert “Tractor” Traylor. He showed little offensive firepower trying to play himself into shape, shooting a paltry 30 percent from the field and averaging 12 points a game against playing against other rookies and NBA wannabes.
Waiters hasn’t fared any better in the preseason, either. He got lambasted by Coach Scott in the team’s 97-80 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks for not knowing the plays and was subsequently benched for “lack of focus.”
Through 5 preseason games, Waiters is shooting just 34 percent and has rarely shown the ability to get to the rim, which was his main strength at Syracuse.
With less than two weeks before the start of the season, Waiters needs a reality check.
The NBA has a long season, and the Cavaliers have little chance of making the playoffs regardless of how well Dion Waiters plays. But for a team who is banking their future on the notion that Waiters can be a dominate player, Waiters needs to start preparing and playing like a professional.
The thing is, Waiters has already been through this. Jim Boeheim challenged Waiters’ preparation and hustle after his pedestrian freshman year at Syracuse coming off the bench. After toying with the idea of transferring going into his second year, Waiters rededicated himself by getting into better shape and giving more energy on both ends of the court. The result was that Dion doubled his points per game from 6.6 to 12.6 while also leading the team in steals in just 24 minutes a game. Ultimately, his energy and instant offense off the bench are what vaulted him up draft boards to the Cavaliers at 4.
Now that he’s made it to the league, it’s not exactly a comforting sight to see a player regress both from a physical and performance standpoint within 3 months of getting drafted—the road to NBA obscurity is littered with the bloated carcasses of the motivationally-challenged.
For a 2012 Cavaliers team that is trying establish a new winning identity in the post-LeBron era, it is a pre-LeBron team that should serve as a cautionary tale for Dion Waiters: the infamous Darius Miles, Ricky Davis led teams, who had all the physical talent without the maturity to know how to handle it.
Because those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.