Remember when Dion Waiters was considered a draft-day reach for the Cleveland Cavaliers?
Of course you do.
And remember when he made critics eat such a notion?
Then remember when he started to look like a bust once again?
That’s correct. After what was supposed to be a coming out party for the rookie guard, we are now coming to see it may have, in fact, been beginner’s luck.
Waiters drained seven three-pointers en route to posting 28 points and leading an upset over the Los Angeles Clippers two weeks ago. The very next game, he put up 12 points and dished out five assists in a loss to the Golden State Warriors. Then he exploded once again, this time against the Phoenix Suns, putting up 23 points and leading what was a valiant, but ultimately failed effort by the Cavaliers.
That last outing was almost two weeks ago. Since then, in four more games, Waiters is putting up just 9.2 points and 1.2 assists on 27.3 percent shooting. His numbers would be much worse off too if it wasn’t for a less than efficient 16-point outing against the Dallas Mavericks.
Now, based off the numbers alone, I’m not going to sit here and call Waiters a bust. It’s far too early to draw such conclusions. And you know what? I’m not going to sit here and proclaim he is a bona fide, end-of-story draft-day reach either.
I’ve conveyed my reservations about Waiters before. His jump shot needs work and he’s not as athletic as most shooting guards. That said, even though I myself was disappointed that Cleveland took him so high, I see that there’s potential there.
However, I also understand that Waiters’ potential isn’t enough. He’s an extremely raw prospect on both ends of the floor, which means he is going to take time to develop; he is not going to be the instant success that Kyrie Irving was.
Sure, Waiters will have games like he did against the Clippers and Suns, but there will be even more nights when he shoots 25 percent or less from the field, fails to involve his teammates on the offensive end when his shot isn’t falling and plays poorly on the defensive end. That’s all a part of evolving and learning as a player.
But again, that does not give the Cavaliers a pass. They cannot sit there and say that it’s alright that they’re not making as much progress because one of their key components is still developing. It doesn’t work like that.
Though Cleveland is clearly rebuilding, it has a current superstar in Kyrie Irving. And a superstar like himself deserves to have a supporting cast that keeps the team relevant bordering on a playoff contender—at the very least.
Irving doesn’t have that right now. He doesn’t have that prolific sidekick he so desperately needs. Yes, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao and even Tyler Zeller have been bright spots, but none of them are stars, nor will any of them become stars.
Waiters, one day, might. He might one day transform into the prolific backcourt mate that Irving and the Cavaliers need to contend.
But that “one day” is not today. Nor is it tomorrow. Again, Waiters is a project.
Which is why it was so disappointing to see Cleveland blow the golden opportunity it had this offseason. The Cavaliers had plenty of money to spend, yet failed to add a significant piece to the puzzle, a piece that would have helped Irving contend for a playoff spot.
So yeah, there is hope for Waiters yet. Plenty of it, in fact. And that’s coming from someone who isn’t exactly an advocate of his on-court stylings, mind you.
However, that hope is not enough to fuel a prominent cause, not enough to help support Irving in his quest to restore faith and relevancy in this franchise.
And while that stands to change eventually, is Waiters going to be enough to carry this franchise with Irving? No, not at all. He’s not that type of athlete. Even with him reaching his ceiling, the Cavaliers need more. They owe Irving more.
And until Irving gets what he needs—whether it be the talent he needs for today or tomorrow—the Cavaliers will be reduced to overanalyzing Waiters’ individual performances, on their way to contending for a lower-level lottery slot.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.
Stats used in this article are accurate as of November 19th, 2012.