Sometimes things just don’t make sense. We can analyze the numbers, watch the games, study the players, critique the plays, and still somehow be left confused. Some players just naturally click and play with a cohesion that is simply beautiful to watch. And at other times, players just don’t seem to work well together on the court.
When the Cavaliers picked Dion Waiters fourth overall in the 2012 NBA Draft, the hope was that Cleveland had just put together it’s backcourt for years to come. The Cavalier organization was hoping that he and Kyrie Irving would overwhelm teams with their speed, shooting, and scoring. But to date, things haven’t worked out the way that they had planned. To this point in the season, the two have shared the court together for a total of 894 minutes over 52 games. For a little perspective, Kyrie has already been on the court for 924 minutes with Luol Deng…in just 31 games.
The Cavs have almost exclusively played them separately, with Dion coming off of the bench as a sixth man, as the two have averaged only 17.2 minutes per game together. For this reason, fans of the team have started to pick sides. Can the two mesh together long term? Does Kyrie need a new backcourt partner in order to maximize his abilities? Or, even, does Irving need to leave so that Waiters can reach his highest potential? These are the types of questions that fans have been asking one another.
Dion has been a revelation over the last few games. Fans have been amazed by the way in which he has taken over games. Against Toronto, the ease at which Waiters attacked the basket and broke down the defense was a sight to be hold. Against Detroit, he waited until the last possible second, jab stepped and took a fadeaway to win a game that Cleveland had no business winning. He has looked like a brand new player.
But that’s just the thing…he has simply looked like a brand new player. The stats don’t back it up. His numbers have gone up across the board, but that is mainly due to an increase in his minutes. If you averaged his numbers our per 36 minutes a game, they are almost identical to before Kyrie went out with his bicep injury. Per 36 minutes, he is scoring just 1.5 extra points per game, an extra 0.4 rebounds each game, and has improved his field goal percentage by 3.1 percent. The big benefit has been found in his assist numbers, as he has gotten an additional 1.8 per game. This benefit though has been countered by a failing three point shot which has plummeted by 14 percent.
These question then become, why don’t Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters see the floor together more often? Both players like to have the ball in their hands and create their own shot, and both shoot better percentages from the left side of the basket (although Waiters does have a nice midrange jumper from the right side as well).
It’s not a matter of whether the two can play together…it’s a matter of whether they want to play together. If so, they both have the skill sets to work together with the abilities to create for themselves and others. As long as they are willing to put in the effort, they can help make the Cavs a team to be reckoned with in the future…they just need a shot.