Every team needs a secret weapon. It’s what makes a group special and gives them an added oomph, that extra push that gets them over whatever bumps lie in the road ahead. Even Expendables 2 needed Chuck Norris to make its already testosterone-filled team of balding gunslingers seem unique.
This is true to form in the NBA as well. Nearly every team has at least one guy that no one can really figure out just yet, that is either too young or too streaky or both to get a good grip on. For most clubs, this player often comes off of the bench and for a number of reasons, including those aforementioned.They could be too streaky, not starter-quality or too young.
But when it comes to the Cleveland Cavaliers, their clear cut X-factor appears to be in the privileged position of playing the starting role on a title contender. That x-factor is none other than Mr. Dion Waiters, a 22-year-old gunslinger in his own right.
Seriously, the dude jacks it up so often he sometimes looks like he’s imagining himself at his own personal shootaround. No doubt this was one of the factors that caused some turmoil between him and Kyrie Irving last season behind the scenes.
While he had the green light to fire when ready on last year’s Cavaliers, this season is going to be much different for Waiters. He’s now got the best player on the planet leading his team, one of, if not the best, power forwards and a new coach as well as some savvy vets.
He’ll be in the spotlight much more often than he was last season, with media and fans watching him closely and scrutinizing everything he does incorrectly.
But what can we expect from Waiters? Well, at this point it should be no more than what he was last season: a streaky shooter who can sometimes get into a scoring zone but needs better shot selection, among other things. His free throw percentage was bad last season as well and his defense has been less than adequate.
It’s not that Dion can’t learn or improve on these things, but simply that he hasn’t yet and one shouldn’t expect him to have all these tools at his disposal come the start of the new season.
In 2013-14, Waiters’ per game stats looked like this:
15.9ppg, 3.0apg, 2.8rpg, 0.9spg, 43.3 FG%, 36.8 3FG%, 68.5 FT%, 29.6 minutes per game
While it’s fairly likely that he’ll be getting the start this coming season, Waiters only started 24 of the 70 games he played last season. In fact, he was what we think of as a more common X-factor in that role.
Now that he’s starting, one can only hope that he chooses to buy into the team dynamic and learns all he can from his All-Star teammates, especially LeBron James, since he also plays the wing. One of the issues Waiters may have with this new system of David Blatt’s, is that there likely won’t be as many shots for him in the mid-range, since he shouldn’t be having to play isolation basketball very often to get his own shot.
Thankfully, Waiters is also a strong 3-point shooter and this will benefit him highly in Blatt’s system. Hopefully we’ll see him take advantage of this and push his 3-point shooting to a new level next season, especially from the right corner, as you can see via his shot chart from 2013-14:
David Blatt knows what he’s getting from the majority of his squad. LeBron will give him anything he needs, Kevin Love provides shooting and rebounding, Kyrie shooting and ball handling, the veterans strong minutes off the bench. But Waiters? He’s still a mystery.
Will he improve his shooting? Will he learn to pick his spots? Will he be able to work through his pride to form a stronger connection to his teammates? Will he buy into Blatt’s system?
The season has yet to start and that fact only makes Waiters even more of an x-factor at this point. But perhaps come the end of the regular season, we’ll finally get a glimpse of the player he is to become as he continues his NBA journey.