Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Improving Dion Waiters

The Cavaliers lost a heartbreaker to the Spurs last night. Kyrie Irving had one of his worst nights, while Dion Waiters had one of his best (at least offensively).

Waiters went 8-15 from the field for 20 points, along with six rebounds and four assists.

He also knocked down what could have been the game-winning shot, a 20-footer to put Cleveland up by two with nine seconds left. Unfortunately, he then left Kawhi Leonard wide open on the other end, and he knocked down a three that won the game for San Antonio.

But as we step back and look at the larger picture, fans should be pleased with the progress that the 21-year-old Waiters has made this season. Earlier, he struggled with both his shooting and his shot selection. He was especially struggling to finish near the basket. This led some people to conclude that the fourth overall pick in last summer's draft was a bust.

That kind of thinking is silly. As we've learned with Tristan Thompson, young players take time to develop. Just because Waiters didn't immediately play like the next Dwyane Wade doesn't mean that he won't be any good.

I'm not saying that he definitely won't be a bust (that potential does exist), but we should not be anywhere close to even suggesting it yet. He hasn't even played a full season yet. And if you actually watch this team, his talent is evident.

And over the last month or so, he's starting to figure it out.

Since January 14, he's made 46% of his shots from the field in 13 games. That's brought his shooting percentage for the season all of the way up to just under 40% (it is 39.6% to be exact). Consider for a moment that Bradley Beal, who was the best shooter in the draft, is making only 39.3% of his field goals for Washington this season.

The reason for Dion's improved shooting is that he seems to be learning to finish at the rim. According to, Waiters had an eFG% of just 42.1% on shots at the rim in November. In February, that number is 71.9%. That's quite a difference. He's also taking far fewer three-pointers (5.3 per game in November, 3.6 per game in December, 2.7 per game in January, and just 1.6 per game in February). There is a reason that people aren't questioning his shot selection quite as much anymore.

There is no question that Waiters has the talent to be a very special scoring guard. Whether or not he ever reaches his potential is mostly up to him. But there are very encouraging signs that he is on his way.

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