To hear the fans in Cleveland and Boston tell it, the Cavaliers and Celtics missed worse than JP Morgan going all in on Facebook with their first round draft picks.
The woebegone Cavs took reigning Big East Sixth Man of the Year Dion Waiters fourth overall – joining UNC’s Marvin Williams as the only collegiate players to be drafted in the lottery without having ever started a college game.
The Celtics had back-to-back picks at 21 and 22, and used their second on the reigning Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Fab Melo – a player who missed the entire 2012 NCAA Tournament due to academic issues.
Was Waiters the fourth best player in the draft? Probably not. Should Melo have found ways to stay academically eligible, no matter what? Probably so.
While both SU first round selections have their obvious question marks, both do possess NBA-caliber tools for success –
The Case for Waiters
Waiters may have never started a game, but he still finished in the top five on the team last year for minutes per game and total minutes played – meaning he essentially played starter minutes. Had he played on just about any other team in the nation (or spent another year on the SU Hill), he would’ve started.
Eschewing any kind of statistics or physically measurements, anyone who watched the Orange last year knows, Waiters was the best player on the court in almost every game he played. Much like James Harden, Manu Ginobili and Jason Terry, Waiters made his mark on the game even if his name wasn’t bellowed through the bowels of Carrier Dome before every tip.
And his confidence has never been lacking. In each one of those contests, Dion displayed the kind of chip-on-my-shoulder, I-own-this-court game one needs to survive in the NBA. With all due respect to Thomas Robinson and Harrison Barnes, did you ever watch them last year and think, “Uh-oh. They’re out for blood?”
Though Waiters’ college career might’ve been abridged, how did NCAA stand-outs Kemba Walker, Jimmer Fredette and Nolan Smith fare this past season in NBA? Think any of their squads wouldn’t trade them for Dion in a heartbeat?
In Cleveland, he won’t be asked to be The Man. Despite Dion’s feelings about himself, that distinction belongs to Kyrie Irving, last year’s #1 overall pick and the runaway Rookie of the Year winner. Dion will be tasked with playing off the prodigious point guard, and doing what’s he’s always done – put the ball in the hoop. On that basis alone, there was perhaps no one better equipped to that in this draft than Waiters.
And one has to give the Cavs credit for sticking to their guns. They wanted a perimeter scorer, and with Florida’s Bradley Beal gone at #3 to Washington, they took the best player who fit that bill – Waiters. In fact, if Cleveland purely wanted someone who could score, one can make the argument Waiters is a better fit than not just Robinson or Barnes, but Beal as well.
Lightning quick, 6’4, 215 lbs. guards who zealously attack the rim, play with an aggressive edge and refuse to back down on the court don’t grow on the trees.
That’s why the Cavaliers might have just taken stock in a player ready to pay huge dividends.
Check back next week for the case for Fab succeeding in Celtic Green …