In the Cleveland Cavaliers' first preseason game, a 91-85 win, the fourth-overall pick in this year's draft, Dion Waiters, played 15 and a half minutes. In the 97-80 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in preseason game two, Waiters was on the court for for 14 minutes. The difference was that, after just one minute in the fourth quarter head coach Byron Scott pulled, and benched, the first-year pro from Syracuse.
There were many who questioned the Cavaliers picking Waiters at number four in the NBA Draft, as he had never started a game in college and many were not convinced about his ability to play defense in the NBA. In his two years at Syracuse, he did not put up stunning numbers, averaging 9.7 points, 2 assists, 1.6 rebounds, and 1.5 steals, while shooting 45% from the field.
Since being drafted, there has been criticism about Waiters being in NBA shape during the Summer League and his offensive ability; also how well he fits in with the Cavaliers. One of the big needs for Cleveland was someone who would take, and knock down, outside shots when Kyrie Irving would drive to the basket. Waiters, though, has not shown an ability to do that, neither in college or since, and tends to also look to attack the basket off the dribble.
Many thought a pick so high would have to be a starter for the Cavaliers, yet Cleveland opened preseason with new signing C.J. Miles starting at shooting guard. Scott said that Waiters would have to work to earn his spot, and that it would not be given to him. Then, a minute into the fourth quarter against Milwaukee, Scott sat the rookie on the bench and he did not return.
In the game, Waiters shot 1-for-7 from the field, for two points, and committed four turnovers before being pulled.
"He's struggling offensively big-time," Scott said of Waiters. "I took him out in the second half because I drew up a play, guard ran the play, he messed it up. To me that was lack of focus so I figured he didn't need to play the rest of the game."
These are not words a rookie wants to hear his head coach say, no matter where they were drafted. It seems that there is a lot of work for Waiters to do, and Scott thinks it will start in his head.
When asked what he would like to see from the youngster, Scott responded with, "Understanding what we're doing offensively. You've got to know the plays. I can't draw up a play during a timeout and you go on the floor and mess it up."
Obviously there is a lot of time for Waiters to get things going, especially with the play of Miles in front of him, but with the number-four pick comes a lot of expectations. Cavaliers' fans will see if he has what it takes to get his head right and figure out his game to help Cleveland succeed in whatever role Coach Scott sees fit for him.
It seems Waiters should start by learning the plays and executing them when his number is called; then go from there.
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