CLEVELAND, OH – The Cleveland Cavaliers have decided to part ways with their fourth overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft, Dion Waiters. During his three seasons with the Cavs, Waiters averaged 14.3 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.0 steal in 28.1 minutes per game.
Waiters has always shown glimpses of star potential since arriving in Cleveland. He was named to the All-Rookie First Team and he participated in the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend 2014, where he finished with 31 points and 7 assists.
Some may wonder why the Cavs decided to part ways with Waiters now, but to others, this is no surprise. Waiters was drafted under a different general manager, a different head coach, and for that matter a totally different team. Entering the NBA in 2012 for the Cavs, Waiters was looked at as the number two option next to Kyrie Irving and his original role was to be Irving’s backcourt running mate. Things didn’t materialize over his first two seasons because both Waiters and Irving are ball dominant guards.
The summer of 2014 was huge for the Cavs, but the role that Waiters was going to have to buy into was minute. Waiters initially resisted a move back to the bench to be the sixth-man assigned by coach David Blatt. He also rebelled against coach Blatt’s decision for him to adopt a more catch-and-shoot mindset. Waiters just didn’t fit with this new, more talented Cavs team, at least not this early in his career. Waiters wants’ to be the man and he feels like he is the best guard on the Cavs roster. That’s a good mindset to have, but if you want to win championships, you need to learn to buy into a team first system.
So what did the Cavs receive for Waiters in this three team trade? The Cavs acquired Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and, most importantly, a protected first-round pick from the Oklahoma City Thunder. This trade actually bolsters the Cavs roster, they will immediately be better on both ends of the floor with this two for one deal.
J.R. Smith is essentially the same player as Waiters, but Smith has already bought into the sixth-man role. He’s also a better catch and shoot player and that’s what the Cavs need with LeBron James running point guard duties from time to time. Smith will thrive in the sixth-man role on a team with better talent than the New York Knicks. Smith’s career averages are 13.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 26.1 minutes per game.
Shumpert, on the other hand, will immediately be the Cavs second best on ball defender behind LeBron James. Shumpert made a name for himself because of his ability to guard any position on the wing. The 6’5 guard has ranked among the NBA’s Top 20 in steals-to-turnover ratio in two of his three pro seasons. That’s something that Waiters lacked, defense, he was never the best defender nor did he have a good steal-to-turnover ratio.
Yes, this trade makes the Cavs better than they are right now, but to truly make a splash the Cavs need to acquire a serviceable frontcourt piece. With the protected 2015 first-round pick from the Oklahoma City Thunder and Brendan Haywood’s contract, they should be able to make that happen.