September 20, 2014

Medina
Partly cloudy
57°F

Cavs make big reach in draft to fill need

Kentucky power forward Anthony Davis was clearly the best player in the NBA Draft. Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal and Kentucky small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were next in line.

As for Syracuse shooting guard Dion Waiters, well, let’s just say the phones weren’t ringing off the hook at the Cavaliers ticket office on Thursday night.

By taking Waiters with the No. 4 overall pick, Cleveland reached to fill its biggest need — a scoring swingman — but could have gotten a much better fit next week in free agency. And they wouldn’t have to wait for a veteran to develop.

The Philadelphia native did average 12.6 points as a sophomore for the Orange, but averaged less than one 3-pointer per game, already proving he needs major skill development to succeed in the NBA.

Standing just 6-foot-4 in basketball shoes, Waiters also gives the Cavaliers a frighteningly small “backcourt of the future” with reigning Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving, who is legitimately 6-2.

If those facts weren’t troubling enough, consider that Waiters hasn’t started a game since his senior season at Burlington Life Center Academy High, coming off the bench in all 71 games with Syracuse.

Yet, if you ask him, Cleveland just added the most NBA-ready rookie.

“I feel like I don’t have any weaknesses in my game,” Waiters said on a conference call. “I went to college as a boy, but I came away a man.

“I’m physical, I have a lot of confidence, I’m a guy that plays with a lot of swagger. I play every game like it’s my last.”

While there was no consensus fourth-best player in the draft this year, scouts were nearly unanimous that it wasn’t Waiters.

Most mock drafts rated him in the neighborhood of No. 8, citing his spot on the Orange’s bench, his meager average of 3.2 free throw attempts per game, and the lingering questions about his maturity.

The Cavaliers, though, believed Waiters was worth the risk — even after he refused to participate in drills at the NBA rookie combine.

“I didn’t even talk to Cleveland (before the draft),” the 20-year-old admitted. “But I’ve known (Kyrie) for a long time. I’m very excited. I wish the season started tomorrow.”

On the flip side, Waiters does give the Cavaliers another quick ballhandler who is capable of scoring in transition. It’s easy to envision him running a fast break with Irving, then passing back to a trailing Anderson Varejao or Tristan Thompson for a slam dunk.

Cleveland’s season-ticket holders have been remarkably forgiving during the last two miserable seasons, but it never hurts to add exciting players while a franchise rebuilds.

“I’m a scorer, I’ve got a scoring mentality,” Waiters said. “I like to get the crowd involved and feed off the energy.”

If Waiters can do that, the Cavaliers and their fans will count this selection as a win. If he can’t, it won’t be long before the Quicken Loans Arena crowds voice their displeasure.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.