Many experts still question the Cleveland Cavaliers selection of Dion Waiters with the fourth-overall pick in the 2012 draft. Those people believed the Cavaliers had other options that may have benefited them more.
Waiters does not believe Cleveland wasted their pick on him.
The shooting guard played two years at Syracuse before going pro, but did not start a single game in college. In his rookie year he appeared in 61 games for the Cavaliers, starting 48.
Waiters averaged 14.7 points per game, which was second among rookies. He also contributed three assists and one steal per game.
These numbers are not staggering, but they are enough for Waiters to make the claim that he is "the next great shooting guard" in the NBA.
In a recent interview with Alex Kennedy of HOOPSWORLD, the second-year shooting guard sent out a warning to the rest of the league.
“I’m coming,” Waiters told HOOPSWORLD in a phone interview. “I just feel as though I’m next up as far as shooting guards. If you look around, you know, Kobe [Bryant] and [Dwyane] Wade and those guys, they paved the way for a player like me and they’re almost done. It’s not like that, but I’m just saying, I’m coming. I just want everybody to know that.
“Without a doubt, I really believe that [I’ll eventually be the best shooting guard in the NBA]. This year, I’m going to show a lot of people who doubted me and still doubt me. I’m going to show them. And I don’t need praise and all of that. I just want to be respected. I’m coming. That’s all I have to say. I’ve taken my work ethic to another level and I feel as though I still have something to prove. So, watch out.”
As a fan of the Cavaliers, that has to make you excited. Waiters has worked hard this offseason to improve his game at the Impact Academy in Los Vegas and participating on Cleveland's Summer League team.
While opposing fans may look at these numbers and question Waiters' statement, if you look at the players he mentions – two of the greatest at the position – his rookie numbers compare favorably.
Kobe Bryant, who was a rookie in the 1996-97 season, averaged 7.6 points, and 0.7 steals per game. Dwyane Wade's rookie numbers were a bit better in 2003-04. He finished averaging 16.2 points, 4.5 assists, and 1.4 steals per game.
Waiters' fits right in with those two from his first year in the league.
Waiters finished the season shooting 41.2% from the field, 31% from three-point range, and 74.6% from the free throw line.
Bryant was a 41.7% shooter, 37.5% from long range, and 81.9% from the line. Wade's percentages were 46.5%, 30.2%, and 74.7%.
These players were obviously in different situations than Waiters in their rookie season, but, based on these numbers, it is not laughable to think he could possibly reach the level of these two one day.
The big factor will be how hard Waiters works to get there. Both Bryant and Wade possessed naturally ability that Dion may not have, but he is showing that he is willing to work hard to get to the top. It is hard to match the work ethic of either superstar, but if Waiters is determined, it is not out of reach.
Something all three certainly have in common is their confidence. Bryant may have come out of the womb one of the most self-confident people of his generation and Wade has never been far behind. Waiters' statement shows he is on a similar level, but now he must back it up.
If this is a goal of Waiters then it can only benefit the Cavaliers. Waiters must put in the work, but if he can get anywhere close to the likes of Bryant or Wade, Cleveland will have a very dangerous back court in the years to come.
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