Cavaliers

Talking Myself into Dion Waiters

Dion looks a bit shocked too

Despite all the late info swirling around the Cavs picking Syracuse SG Dion Waiters, it was still a surprise when David Stern called his name for the Cavs with the fourth pick. Really? A guy who didn’t start for his college team?1.  A guy the Cavs didn’t even work out? WHAT?!

Waiters has been compared to Dwyane Wade, which sounds a bit nuts (although it sounded nuts last year when Kyrie Irving kept being compared to Chris Paul) but he’s a 6-4, athletic two-guard who can get to the hole and finish inside. The Cavs certainly need more playmakers (as they currently have one) but an undersized scoring shooting guard? Forgive me for having Dajuan Wagner flashbacks.

I knew I was getting myself too worked up for the draft. After months of having “what if the Cavs land the first pick and get Anthony Davis??” conversations followed by weeks of pitching “Cleveland trades up for Beal and then flips Varejao to get back into the lottery for Drummond” scenarios, seeing the Cavs draft Dion Waiters was certainly a letdown.

Although, whether or not it was a bad pick is something else entirely. 

Obviously, no one knows if Dion Waiters was the correct pick for the Cavs. We won’t have any idea until the games begin. I don’t know about anyone else, but I try to read as many post-draft report cards and analysis as I can, to see what the “experts” had to say about the Cavs’ picks. I want to get as much information as possible.

The results were decidedly mixed:

There’s also good stuff on Waiters in Bill Simmons’ post-draft podcast, NBA Today’s Pre-draft podcast and the DraftExpress scouting video should give you a fairly good idea on what the Cavs liked about Mr. Waiters2.

The grades for the Cavs ran the gamut from A-to-F. Clearly, the Waiters pick was the biggest surprise and most polarizing selection of the draft. But after MKG went to Charlotte and Bradley Beal landed in Washington, the Cavs were somewhat stuck. Do they take a guy they don’t like (Harrison Barnes)? Do they take a guy who plays the same position as last year’s No. 4 selection (Thomas Robinson)? Do they trade down and hope Waiters is still there at 6 or 7? Roll the dice with Andre Drummond?

While I’m decidedly underwhelmed at the Waiters selection, I have a hard time for killing the Cavs for the pick. The idea to trade up with Charlotte was intriguing, but it was rumored that the Bobcats were asking for a lot in return. What counts as a lot? If the Cavs had to trade their entire draft and take back a contract like Tyrus Thomas (owed 3-years, $27 million) for the rights to Bradley Beal or MKG, would that have been worth it? Maybe. But the Cavs have a ton of holes and trading away three picks while taking on longterm salary seems counter-productive at this stage in the rebuilding process. And for all the talk of Charlotte looking to deal (they allegedly had five different offers), the Bobcats decided to keep the pick3.

The only other pick that made sense was Harrison Barnes. Here’s a wing with “off-the-charts” athleticism but a questionable motor, who is very concerned/aware of his “brand”. Hmm… a brand conscious SF, eh? The Cavs weren’t a fan?

But Cleveland wasn’t the only team to pass on Barnes, Sacramento and Portland said “thanks, but no thanks” too, as he fell all the way to Golden State at No. 74Matt Moore, CBS Sports explains:

2. Harrison Barnes was essentially overrated in evaluations for two years, all the way up until Thursday at 7:00 EST. Then he was adequately rated by the draft process. Waiters may have been a reach by Cleveland, but Barnes going seventh was representative of where he should go overall. Enough of a risk to not go top five, enough of a talent to go top ten.

[snip]

4. I was vehemently opposed to the idea of Harrison Barnes going top four. But he would have been a better choice for Cleveland than Waiters. It’s not that Waiters doesn’t fill the need or won’t be a good player. He does and he will. It’s just such a reach. The Cavaliers spent all that time efforting to move up to No. 2, why not spend a little time moving back to get Waiters and pick up something else? It wasn’t a huge reach, it was a small reach, but it was still a reach.

Selecting Thomas Robinson offers a different conundrum. Could the Cavs have afforded to take another big man, when they severely lack offensive weapons from the wings? Can you play Robinson and Tristan Thompson together? Would one of them have to be traded? Did the Cavs even like Robinson?

Chad Ford made a point (in the Simmons’ podcast linked above) that when the Cavs passed on Robinson, they compounded their mistake from last year’s draft. The idea is that last year, Cleveland should’ve taken Lithuanian C Jonas Valanciunas and stashed him overseas, instead of taking Tristan Thompson5. Then when Robinson fell to them at No. 4, they would’ve been free to take the Kansas PF, as he wouldn’t be redundant without Thompson on the roster.

He may be right. Maybe having Valanciunas and Robinson is the better way to go. But I have a hard time killing the Thompson pick when we haven’t even seen Valanciunas play a minute in the NBA (and Valanciunas was really the only other option at No. 4). Forgive me for not saying the Cavs 1000% should’ve taken Valanciunas before anyone has seen him against NBA talent.

While I don’t doubt that Byron Scott really likes Waiters, I do doubt that he was the No. 2 guy on their board (if that’s the case, why the interest in trading up?). It looks like the Cavs came out of this draft with two of the top twelve players. The Cavaliers added a dynamic, scoring wing player in Waiters (by most accounts, the second best SG in the draft) and a serviceable center in Tyler Zeller. I have a hard time arguing with that. If they would’ve traded down with Portland for 6 & 11 and nabbed these same two guys, I think most Cavs fans would be fairly thrilled.

Yes, it looks like Chris Grant and co. reached for Waiters at 4. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t6. But if the kid can play, all of this is moot. If Waiters can fit in next to Kyrie Irving and give the Cavs a dynamic backcourt, all the draft night angst will be forgotten.

We’ll get our first glimpse of the Irving-Waiters backcourt when the Cavs kick off their Summer League against the Bobcats on July 15th.

  1. Seeing your team’s draft pick being mentioned with Marvin Williams is always cause for concern []
  2. just ignore that “Best Case Scenario: Rodney Stuckey, Worst Case Scenario: Smush Parker” part. Yikes! []
  3. despite the reports, Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski said that they were never close to a deal, which makes me thinks the Cavs balked at taking back Ty Thomas []
  4. FWIW, Warriors GM Jerry West liked Waiters []
  5. Ford also said that had Valanciunas been in the 2012 draft, he would’ve gone No. 2 []
  6. they did []