To be brutally frank, Cleveland Cavaliers off guard Dion Waiters had a rookie season that was tough to watch. Yes, he put up 14.7 points per game for the 24-win Cavs, but his shot selection was truly lacking. Even while graded on the rookie curve.
Partially in response, Waiters was brutally frank in a recent interview with Alex Kennedy at HoopsWorld recently, even if Kennedy’s parenthesis helped put Waiters’ remarks a little over the top. Apparently Dion has designs on becoming the best shooting guard in the NBA, which is probably something all shooting guards in the NBA should aspire to. From the interview:
“Without a doubt, I really believe that [I’ll eventually be the best shooting guard in the NBA]. This year, I’m going to show a lot of people who doubted me and still doubt me. I’m going to show them. And I don’t need praise and all of that. I just want to be respected. I’m coming. That’s all I have to say. I’ve taken my work ethic to another level and I feel as though I still have something to prove. So, watch out.”
“I’m coming,” Waiters told HOOPSWORLD in a phone interview. “I just feel as though I’m next up as far as shooting guards. If you look around, you know, Kobe [Bryant] and [Dwyane] Wade and those guys, they paved the way for a player like me and they’re almost done. It’s not like that, but I’m just saying, I’m coming. I just want everybody to know that.”
This wasn’t from a Q & A answer session, with every query on record, so we have no idea what question preceded Waiters’ first quote. That’s not a shot at Kennedy, one of the league’s more ambitious up and coming journalists, just pointing out that Waiters’ actual uttering of “I’ll eventually be the best shooting guard in the NBA” isn’t on record.
Still, the inference is enough to raise eyebrows, especially for those that struggled with observing Waiters’ instincts and choices during his 2012-13 rookie campaign. He had his moments, even from long range, but by and large he looked more of a chucker than a charmer, someone whose off-balance attempts from the field didn’t really do much to help his field goal percentage cause from any area of the court.
“Balance” is key, because Dion consistently faded to his left on certain attempts, the obvious byproduct of acting as a semi-undersized shooting guard, working in his first year in a league full of long arms and smart defenders. It was only natural, considering Waiters didn’t start a game in his two years at Syracuse, before being thrown to the wolves as a starter in 48 out of the 61 games he played with the rebuilding Cavaliers. When Paul George is closing in on you, you tend to lean.
Waiters recognizes this. From his talk with Kennedy:
“I’m working on everything, especially staying balanced when I shoot the ball. That’s the biggest thing, as well as taking good shots within the offense.”
(Yes, the second part to that quote will help too.)
Again, the “best shooting guard in the NBA”-bit is an inference, and not an actual quote. Even if Waiters did say as much on record, what would be the problem with that? You don’t want your team’s off guard, especially one taken fourth overall in the draft, to say as much?
And with the NBA’s shooting guard position at an all-time deficit – beyond the Hall of Fame work of Mssrs. Bryant and Wade, there’s a real paucity of all-world talent at the position – Waiters should have as good a shot as any to swoop in. Even if his rookie year was a bit of a mess, and especially if his offseason work ethic has been as strong as he claims it to be. Especially with Waiters’ significant gifts and talent already in place.
It’s not quite Jordan Crawford comparing himself to Michael Jordan, but even after that mess of an interview we didn’t mind the bravado. As long as the offseason reps are in place, you can talk all you want.
Waiters was going to be judged harshly no matter the offseason interview regimen. This possibly adds to the intrigue, but it probably shouldn’t. As long as the shots he’s taking are smart ones, jumping straight up and with proper follow-through, things should fall into place. Maybe not to the level of the best shooting guard in the NBA, but Cavalier fans will settle for something close to it.