COMMENTARY | You'd be hard-pressed to find a term that has been beaten to death more than "polarizing" by today's sports media.
Polarizing has somehow become the de-facto adjective for those just talented enough to be tolerated by one's own fanbase (think Richard Sherman), your garden-variety idiots (think Jonathan Vilma), flat-out nut jobs (think Dennis Rodman), and whatever this is.
And while virtually every sports franchise has one of the aforementioned individuals hovering around its roster in some capacity, the player walking the love/hate tightrope for the Cleveland Cavaliers is polarizing not for what he does off the court but also for what he does on it.
Dion Waiters is divisive because of his talent, or lack thereof, depending on which camp you're in. A year and a half into Waiters' career, it's still impossible to tell whether the Cavs shooting guard brings more to the team than he detracts from it.
Simply put, you're not going to find a more schizophrenic player in the NBA. Depending on the game, Waiters can either look like Dwyane Wade-lite slashing to the hoop at will, or your intoxicated uncle chucking up 20-foot fadeaways at the family barbecue that threaten to bring down the backboard.
Waiters is averaging a very respectable 14.3 points in just over 28 minutes per game. But it's not his scoring average that tells his story, it's the inconsistency. In the Cavs' last five games, Waiters has scored 18, 24, 6, 0, and 19 points, respectively, which is a pretty good microcosm of Waiters' short career.
Ultimately, the most perplexing thing for a player who can get to the basket with the ease in which Waiters can is his disappointing field goal percentage. Waiters is shooting just 41.7 percent from the floor, which is 22nd in the league among shooting guards. Some nights he looks unstoppable, other nights he looks like the biggest reason for the Cavaliers' 18-33 record.
Even though Waiters is the kind of player who has unteachable talent, the fact that the Cavs have another, better, ball-dominant guard in Kyrie Irving has led many to conclude that Waiters and Irving are better off without each other. The rumors that Waiters and Irving have had off-the-court issues this year only amplify the Cavs' backcourt concerns.
Most teams would have the luxury to simply wait it out to see whether Waiters is more boom than bust, but with the Cavaliers' winning percentage roughly approximating the favorability rating of a Sochi Best Western, and new rumors of locker-room friction coming out every other day, the pressure is on the Cavaliers to either right the ship with Waiters on board or ship him off while he still has legitimate value.
With Chris Grant recently jettisoned as the team's general manager (take a bow Anthony Bennett), interim GM David Griffin has until the Feb. 20 trade deadline to try to figure out how to make the Cavs' roster work.
Which ultimately begs the question: Can you trade a player who has the potential to be a dominant shooting guard for the next decade for a chance to find better chemistry, or do you keep playing Waiters and hope that something clicks within the confines of the team?
Whatever the Cavaliers choose to do, or don't do with Waiters, the potential ramifications are huge--a player with Waiters' shoot-first mentality typically either takes his game to the next level to help a team or becomes a one-man team cancer that eventually buries them.
Although the team's roster is anything but set, Griffin seemingly telegraphed the Cavaliers' intention to wait and see how things develop this year with Waiters.
Griffin said last week that the Cavaliers would be more likely to buy at the trade deadline than shop the team's current players, news that should help Dan Gilbert sleep better at night. Because amidst all the losing, if there's one thing Gilbert has learned over the past few years, it's that the ones who get away can be the ones to come back to haunt you the most.
- Sports & Recreation
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Dion Waiters