The Cleveland Cavaliers will not start the regular season until the end of this month, but it would be nice to see something more out of rookie guard Dion Waiters during the exhibition contests.
Waiters, the 4th overall pick out of Syracuse in June’s draft, was considered a gamble at that choice. Most scouts had him in the top ten choices, but very few had him in going in the first five picks.
The rookie had to be pulled out of one game because coach Byron Scott felt he didn’t have a grasp of the plays, and has largely been inconsistent. He’s shooting just 36% from the floor, and there is a possibility he won’t start opening night.
To be fair, last year’s rookie of the year, Kyrie Irving, is shooting 34.3% in the games that don’t count.
Still, other rookies picked after Waiters are making a bigger impact thus far. The guy many people wanted to take with the fourth pick overall, Golden State F Harrison Barnes, is shooting 50% and scoring 10.4 per contest.
Granted the regular season is still over a week today, and there will be five and a half months to evaluate Waiters, but there certainly can be some concern.
Yes, we know that Scott was also the fourth pick in the draft and said he didn’t start until halfway through his rookie year, but he was drafted by the Lakers, and his teammates included Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, and Jamaal Wilkes.
Also, Scott was a solid NBA player, but he was never considered an elite player.
GM Chris Grant and Scott need Waiters to be the second building block (with Irving) in the Cavs’ return to playing in the post-season. They need more than a solid performer.
And don’t forget that the rook was out of shape going into the summer league, another thing that raises eyebrows.
In today’s NBA, title contending teams need three all-star type players if they hope to mount a serious challenge to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
The Cavaliers had three picks in the top four of each of the last two drafts and right now can only claim Kyrie Irving as a future star.
This is not to write off either Tristan Thompson or Waiters because the former has played just one season and the latter hasn’t yet played a regular season game.
The greatest improvement many players make is between their first and second year, so we should have a better read on Thompson after this season, and he’s averaging 8 points and 7 rebounds in a little over 20 minutes in the pre-season.
It appears he can be the double-double guy Scott hoped for as early as this year.
Again, this is not to call Waiters a bust. It’s far too early for that. However, he certainly hasn’t had that “wow” moment yet during exhibition play. He had one really good game, which came right after he was yanked out of the game, but hasn’t followed up with another one.
When Waiters was drafted, we said this was a huge gamble by Grant that could either pay off handsomely or cost the GM his job down the line.
Right now, Grant should feel a little uneasy. Waiters needs to show more, both for himself and for the Cavalier franchise.