It has been a rough going for Cleveland Cavaliers' Dion Waiters since being selected as the number-four overall pick in this past summer's NBA Draft. Starting with draft night, many experts were unsure about the Cavaliers' decision to select Waiters so high, as they felt there were better options available at the time. It was their belief that he may not be able to adjust to NBA life quickly enough to make him worthy of such a high pick.
In preparation for this season, it seemed these pundits were right, as Waiters struggled for Cleveland's Summer League team. He was not in NBA game shape and it showed throughout. When preseason began, Waiters' fitness improved, but he was not excelling as the Cavaliers hoped he would when picking him, and came off the bench for the first three games. In one game, head coach Byron Scott pulled Waiters from the game early in the fourth quarter because he did not execute an inbounds play properly. Scott said the rookie was not focused and they could not afford someone on the court who did not know how to run the plays.
As Scott shifted the lineup, Waiters was inserted into the starting lineup, but his play did improve significantly. The production was not there, neither on the offensive or defensive side of the ball. Since the Cavaliers were hoping Waiters would cement the back court, along with Kyrie Irving, for the future, this was disappointing for fans heading into the season.
In Cleveland's opening game of the season, Waiters was in the starting lineup, and finally started to look like he not only deserved to start, but could live up to the number-four pick. Waiters finished the night with 17 points, shooting 6-for-14, and two rebounds, while also showing flashes on the defensive side with three steals. He was good in the transition game and attacked the basket well.
What made the performance even better was how he and Irving played together, as they looked like they were beginning to develop the chemistry the Cavaliers had been hoping for. After the game, Irving addressed their play together, saying that they were playing off of each other well and had a sense where the other was.
While this is only game one of the season, it is good to finally see some promise out of Waiters. Since this was his first meaningful start since high school (Waiters was the sixth man for Syracuse in his two season there) it may take time for him to get used to his role and life in the NBA. With that said, it would have been tough for fans to swallow another poor game from Waiters, so this game got people excited again for the young player.
While competition will get more difficult, starting Friday night with the Chicago Bulls, and the length of the season may take a tole on him, as it tends to on rookies who are not used to playing as many games, Waiters at least has begun to validate those that believed he could be a top-five pick and a future star in the NBA.
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