A Friendly Chat About Dion Waiters, As If We Haven’t Had Enough of Those

October 25th, 2012 by Colin McGowan

In case you haven’t noticed by now, Cavs: The Blog is a million-word homage to Luis Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie in which we sit around a metaphorical blog-table and blog-talk about whatever’s troubling us—which is always inconsequential since sports are an inherently silly thing—like Buñuel’s plutocrats chatting about wine and exotic flora, only to be interpolated as bad actors or fascists or inhabitants of a godless ant farm of a universe. We’re just idly filling the blog-room with words we’re not sure we mean until the next guillotine drops and we wake from one dream into another.

(And my interpretation of the initial, Krolik-run incarnation of C:TB was that it was a blog version of Beckett’s Happy Days, where John exuberantly papered verbose false optimism over the toxic reality of Cavalier fandom day after day after day after day until he finally embraced exhaustion and death. [Or nascent lawyer-dom at prestigious school in New Orleans, which is basically the same thing.] I’m sure John would completely agree with my reading of his work.)

Anyway, we all emailed each other about Saint Weirdo today and thought you might want to peruse our discussion:

Kevin: I can’t wait for the regular season to start.  Pre-season is excessively assessed.  With that said, I am going to over-analyze it. Today, I read David Thorpe say that Dion has not shown anything to date in the pre-season to even make it look like he should have been drafted (let alone top 5).  As a Cavs fans and a Dion draft-day supporter, I’m pretty invested in Dion.  This email primarily serves to talk myself off the ledge.  Please remind me that seven pre-season games are not only meaningless games, but also a meaningless sample size.

A few notes on the Cavs pre-season schedule:
  • Philly and Chicago ranked 3rd and 1st in the NBA for defensive rating last year.  Indiana ranked tenth.  Sure, Philly lost Iguodala and Brand, but those are solid teams with a strong commitment to defense.
  • Cleveland played a back-to-back and also a four-games-in-four-cities-in-six-days spread.  Given that it was pre-season at Camp Scott, I am sure the rest days were not very restful.
So not only is preseason a small sample size, but this was an unfriendly schedule for an inexperienced player / team to flash strong offensive showings.
A few notes on Dion:
  • In his first three games, he posted: 7 assists, 10 turnovers, 0 steals and 8 fouls.
  • In his next four games, he posted: 8 assists, 2 turnovers, 4 steals and 4 fouls
Again, small sample sizes, but nice trend.  Looks like he was figuring the NBA game out after a rough start.
He made 35% of his attempts from deep and 75% on free throws.  He made 34% of his two-pointers.  That has to be something that will regress to the mean, right?

Colin: Preseason isn’t really “the NBA game.” It has a sort of crawfish/lobster relationship with the way the game looks during the regular season. Considering that Waiters hasn’t looked baldly incompetent or like the next coming of Jordan, I think we can probably just throw out what we’ve seen.

I don’t know. He may well suck—that’s sort of the scary thing about him; his ceiling and basement don’t exist in the same solar system—but we can’t know that until a good 40 games into the season, and then even after that, to determine the precise degree to which he’s going to suck or amaze, we’ll have to watch for another couple of years. It’s early and nothing really means anything. I think you’re just anxious, Kev. Try to let the first half of his rookie season wash over you, then we’ll have some reason to panic or celebrate.

Mallory: Kevin, I’ve thankfully written an article with suggestions as to how you can temper your nerves.  Might I suggest a stout?

Dani: I think that Kyrie’s presence will level him out tremendously, that preseason doesn’t mean much at all, and that Byron Scott is not going to let him take games off. I like what you said about regression to the mean. Kyrie Irving had an extremely [mediocre] preseason, but no one is ringing the alarm bell about him. I think the big scare (which definitely had an effect on me also) is due to the combination a few random factors. Waiters already had the label (fair or unfair) of a boom-or-bust pick. Obviously, he didn’t perform well in the preseason. That led to an instant labeling of bust. If he had played well, or had a few more highlights, I think people would be screaming boom. Either way, it doesn’t matter.

Kevin: Mallory, I had a Sammy Smith’s Nut Brown Ale tonight, and I feel better   already.  I normally go to the liquor store on Friday, because they do beer tastings.  I’ll have to scope the place out for some of your recommendations.  I did have the Brooklyn Pumpkin last weekend; both my wife and I were very pleased.

Colin, you are correct, but honestly, I will give Waiters a bit of a pass for a full season.  After reading the Thorpe article, I just felt like firing off an email.  I don’t think anything especially positive or negative should be said about a young player based on the pre-season.

One final ramble on Dion: in the Indiana game, a top-ten defense that played their full lineup, Mr. Waiters shot 14 times, 6 in the paint, and drew 4 free throws.  He notched 2 assists.  He only had 1 shot blocked with 0 turnovers.  The fact he was able to get his shots and take care of the ball, actually seems pretty promising to me.  The shots should fall eventually; he’s a 20 year old in his sixth kind-of NBA game.

Dani, I agree with you, too.  People became way too polarized about Dion way too fast.

Nate: I’ve been thinking a lot like this too, and contrasting this with the rookies who have been playing well in preseason: Harrison Barnes, Damian Lillard, Andre Drummond, and Meyers Leonard… Not that every player was even a practical fit for us.  If we got killed for taking Waiters at the #4, Lillard or Leonard would’ve been seen as major failures. I like Andre Drummond, but he literally can’t shoot 30% from the line, which means you can’t play the guy once you’re in the penalty.

I even have been going back and seeing who we could’ve drafted instead of TT. Obviously, Valanciunas comes to mind, but there was also a lot of talk last year at #4 of drafting Kawhi Leonard, who is being talked about right now as the future face of the Spurs. Hindsight is a bitch.

Here’s D-Wait’s preseason stats

Preseason Team G GS MPG FG% 3p% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
12-13 CLE 7 4 22.3 0.344 0.350 0.750 0.3 1.7 2.0 2.1 0.6 0.0 1.7 1.7 8.6
Here are some comparable player preseason stats from their rookie year…
Dwayne Wade
Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
03-04 MIA 5 5 23.6 0.434 0.500 0.696 0.8 2.4 3.2 2.4 2.0 1.0 2.00 1.60 12.8

Jamal Crawford

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
03-04 CHI 8 8 33.4 0.380 0.317 0.878 0.6 2.9 3.5 6.6 1.1 0.6 3.38 2.50 17.6

James Harden

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
09-10 OKC 6 3 27.3 0.393 0.259 0.600 0.3 2.8 3.2 2.0 1.8 0.2 2.00 3.33 12.2

Russell Westbrook

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
08-09 OKC 7 1 23.4 0.378 0.273 0.759 0.9 3.0 3.9 2.4 0.7 0.0 4.29 2.71 14.3

Marcus Thornton

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
09-10 NOH 6 2 20.5 0.412 0.400 0.538 1.3 1.5 2.8 0.3 0.5 0.2 1.50 1.67 12.2

Eric Gordon

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
08-09 LAC 7 1 23.4 0.392 0.353 0.875 0.4 1.4 1.9 0.9 1.4 0.0 1.00 1.57 14.6

Tyreke Evans

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
09-10 SAC 7 7 31.6 0.441 0.231 0.750 1.1 3.7 4.9 4.7 1.1 1.0 4.00 2.29 15.1

Jimmer Fridette

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
11-12 SAC 2 1 33.5 0.550 0.667 0.625 0.0 3.5 3.5 4.0 0.5 0.0 1.50 1.00 16.5

Manu Ginobili

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
02-03 SAS 5 0 14.2 0.308 0.111 0.600 1.0 2.0 3.0 2.0 1.2 0.4 1.80 1.60 4.0

Kyrie Irving

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
11-12 CLE 2 0 26.0 0.346 0.000 0.875 0.5 3.5 4.0 3.0 2.0 0.0 2.50 2.00 16.0

Deron Williams

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
05-06 UTA 7 2 18.7 0.532 0.545 0.722 0.1 1.0 1.1 4.0 0.6 0.0 1.86 2.00 9.9

Shannon Brown

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
06-07 CLE 7 0 16.6 0.426 0.182 0.778 0.3 1.1 1.4 1.3 0.6 0.0 1.29 1.43 7.0

Arron Afflalo

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
07-08 DET 8 0 21.4 0.469 0.429 0.870 0.8 2.4 3.1 0.9 0.4 0.1 1.88 2.38 9.0

Brandon Roy

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
06-07 POR 8 7 34.8 0.458 0.200 0.804 0.8 2.6 3.4 3.6 0.5 0.5 3.12 3.88 14.8

O.J. Mayo

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
08-09 MEM 8 8 29.8 0.458 0.385 0.625 0.4 2.9 3.3 2.4 1.8 0.2 2.25 2.12 15.4

Louis Williams

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
05-06 PHI 7 0 14.3 0.297 0.222 0.571 0.4 1.3 1.7 1.1 0.7 0.0 0.57 1.43 4.6

Rodney Stuckey

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
07-08 DET 8 2 25.8 0.375 0.143 0.792 1.3 2.3 3.5 3.1 1.2 0.5 2.75 3.00 12.1

Alec Burks

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
11-12 UTA 2 0 18.0 0.167 0.000 0.750 0.5 0.0 0.5 1.5 1.0 0.0 0.50 0.00 4.5

Andre Iguodala

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
04-05 PHI 8 4 23.6 0.487 0.364 0.652 0.4 3.1 3.5 2.6 1.5 0.0 2.25 2.75 7.1

Demar DeRozan

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
09-10 TOR 8 8 25.9 0.410 0.273 0.769 0.6 1.8 2.4 0.8 0.5 0.1 1.13 2.00 10.4

Jason Terry

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
99-00 ATL 7 1 19.3 0.341 0.111 0.647 0.0 1.4 1.4 2.3 1.3 0.0 2.71 2.14 5.7

Joe Johnson

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
01-02 BOS 8 0 23.5 0.362 0.235 1.000 1.1 1.9 3.0 1.4 0.4 0.2 1.50 1.50 6.5

Ray Allen

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
97-98 MIL 7 7 25.9 0.556 0.583 0.813 0.6 3.4 4.0 4.6 1.6 0.0 2.00 3.00 16.1

Monta Ellis

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
05-06 GSW 6 0 14.3 0.333 0.273 0.800 0.2 1.8 2.0 1.0 0.8 0.2 1.33 1.17 5.2

Wesley Matthews

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
09-10 UTA 6 3 20.5 0.333 0.250 0.947 0.3 0.8 1.2 0.8 1.3 0.0 1.50 2.17 6.2

Kobe Bryant

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
97-98 LAL 8 0 21.4 0.500 0.412 0.724 0.5 2.3 2.8 1.9 1.2 0.5 2.75 2.88 12.5

As the list shows, more of these guys shot well when they were rookies than didn’t, but there are good players, and even some all stars who didn’t (Ginobili,Terry, Joe Johnson, Eric Gordon, oh, and Kyrie Irving).

I think there are a few things going on here:

1: at 6’4″ 215-220, Waiters body type is not one you find a lot in the nba as a successful 2 guard.  He may need to get leaner to get quicker.  Like I said before, the comparisons are Dwayne Wade and Shannon Brown.  Wade was thinner when he came in the league, and he’s getting leaner again.  It’s a lot of weight to carry at the 2 guard spot.  I think Waiters still has to get in better shape.

2: His other numbers are fine.  Not great, but fine.  His shooting will probably come around.  I’ve seen nothing that says: “this guy is terrible” watching him, and I liked how far he’d come on defense in the last game I watched.  And he has had some nice passes.  Not as nice as Kyrie did in preseason last year, but decent, and he has seemed to keep the dumb plays to a minimum.

3. The defenses have been tough, as you say, and I’m betting Camp Scott has been tougher.  The players look tired in the preseason games I’ve seen.  Hopefully we see a refreshed St. Weirdo in the regular season.

4. His role has been changing a lot.  He’s basically learning two positions at once.  I don’t know if any other guys on that list have had to do that in preseason of their rookie year.

5. It’s preseason.  This discussion will be either moot or prescient in a month.

Pass it around: