In what is perhaps one of the greatest offseasons in NBA history, the Cleveland Cavaliers went from playoff pretender to NBA Finals contender with two major moves. Thanks to the return of LeBron James and the acquisition of Kevin Love, the Cavaliers have arguably the best trio of players in all of professional sports along with budding star point guard, Kyrie Irving.
The Cavaliers have come quite a long way from where they were at this point last season, when we were all discussing whether or not Irving would stay here long-term and what the Cavaliers would do with all of their cap space in the summer of 2014. With most hoping for a few nice players to put the team back into playoff contention, the current composure of the roster is not something the wildest dreams of most fans could have composed.
In fact, many were convinced that addition by subtraction—moving young guard Dion Waiters in particular—may have to be done in order to get this team where they needed to be. With the well documented issues between Irving and Waiters on the court, it was a foregone conclusion that Waiters would be the odd man out thanks to Irving’s ascension to star status so quickly.
What a difference a year makes, huh?
Not only are both players part of a starting lineup that could go down as one of the greatest to ever grace the court, but Waiters is being viewed by many as a sleeper breakout candidate. With any one of his three star teammates likely to command a double team at any given time, Waiters has the potential to not only be a solid fourth option in the starting lineup—but someone who could flourish in a big way playing with distributors like James and Love.
Another thing on Dion Waiters: his jumper looks so much better, so much more smooth. I didn’t realize who was shooting with LeBron at 1st
— Chris Fedor (@ChrisFedor) September 29, 2014
Forget about the internet “rumors” of Waiters being traded to Indiana in a package to bring Roy Hibbert to town, Waiters’ dynamic ability to play both guard positions will be an absolute asset to this organization now and for the foreseeable future. Coming off a season in which he averaged 15.9 points, 3.0 assists and 2.8 rebounds on 43.3 percent shooting, Waiters’ ability to attack and draw fouls with zero fear going to the hole will be an asset desperately needed in this offense when the others are being double-teamed.
At just 22-years old, Waiters has a first step and attacking mentality that the Miami Heat would have killed to have playing fourth fiddle in their offense last season with James. So forget about all the talk of him being moved, the youngster is here to stay. And if he has it his way, he will even get an opportunity to play some point guard alongside of James and Love when Irving needs a break as well.
Speaking in an interview earlier this week Waiters said, “I’d love to play point guard. I would love the opportunity if coach gave me a shot at that, I would love to take on the full commitment to that because I think I could play the one also.” Waiters continued, “I think a lot of people haven’t seen me play point guard. Over the time that I did play point guard I excelled.”
Now, Waiters wasn’t saying he should start over Irving at the point guard position—just that he would love the opportunity to run the floor. With the Cavaliers in desperate need of someone to emerge behind Irving, Waiters could eventually be that guy in different stretches of the game thanks to the team’s budding depth with players capable of playing shooting guard for Waiters.
The likes of Mike Miller and Shawn Marion—two veterans brought in during the offseason—have played shooting guard during their careers, and with the rumors of Ray Allen joining the team after camp, let’s just say the depth could be getting even better. With intelligent floor spacers like that in the second unit, a ball-dominant guard like Waiters who has excellent court vision could make sure the Cavaliers do not lose a beat when Irving and others need a breather.
It is truly amazing to think about all of the possibilities of the Cavaliers rotation heading into the 2014-2015 NBA season. A historic offseason orchestrated by general manager David Griffin and the master recruiter, James, has taken a team many joked about being a step above the D-League over the course of the past few seasons to one short of opportunities for young players.
The commanding veteran presence is easy to see, with James, Love, Marion, Miller, James Jones and Brendan Haywood joining Anderson Varejao and the Cavaliers’ youngsters. But that youth, Waiters in particular, should not be forgotten because it will have a major impact on not only the short-term championship aspirations—but the long-term potential dynasty Griffin and the Cavaliers front office is trying to construct.
So as you slip on your brand new James, Love and Irving jerseys and head out to the scrimmage and exhibition games this week, do not forget about the guard wearing No. 3 and starting at shooting guard. Because as time goes on, he could just end up being one of the most important pieces to the roster that you thought wasn’t going to be here.