INDEPENDENCE: The comparisons between Dion Waiters and Dwyane Wade began prior to the draft and came from all sides, including Cavs coach Byron Scott and Jim Boeheim, Waiters’ coach at Syracuse.
Now 24 games into his NBA career, Waiters is shooting 36 percent overall and 32 percent on 3-pointers. Scott has tabled the Wade comparisons, conceding this week that “obviously he’s not nowhere near where Dwyane Wade is now.” Yet in the next breath, Scott threw out James Harden’s name as someone he’d like Waiters to study and model his game after.
Harden is the silky smooth lefty who has mastered getting to the rim and getting to the free-throw line. He is enjoying a breakout season in his first year as a starter with the Houston Rockets, averaging 26.1 points on 17 shots per game.
Waiters, conversely, has been a volume shooter his rookie season, averaging 14.2 points on 14.7 shots. Scott wants to decrease his attempts while increasing his production. The only way to do that is by eliminating some of the questionable shots Waiters takes while continuing to stress upon him the importance of getting to the rim.
Most importantly, the Cavs have spent the early part of the season cleaning up the form on his jump shot. They eliminated a quirky knee kick he had showed up with in training camp and they’ve worked with him on going straight up and down rather than fading away from the basket.
C.J. Miles said even some of his teammates, including Kyrie Irving, holler at him both in practice and games to watch his form and not fade. Asked where he picked up that fade, Waiters said “watching too much NBA as a young kid trying to be those guys. I’ve shot the same way my whole life. I’m just trying to be a more consistent shooter now and shoot the same jump shot.”
There is one glaring difference between Harden and Waiters – aside from the fact Harden is a lefty and Waiters is right-handed. Harden has dismissed the mid-range jumper as his career has evolved. This season, 65 percent of his shots have been either 3-pointers or within 3 feet of the basket. Scott believes Waiters, conversely, is really effective with a mid-range jumper.
“I think sometimes he abandons that,” Scott said. “I think he should try to continue to live in that paint area and live in that 15-to-18-foot area, because there’s where he’s really effective.”
Nearly every time Waiters attacks the basket and misses, he believes he is fouled.
“If I miss a shot, I blame somebody else,” Waiters said only half-jokingly, “because I don’t think I’m going to just miss a shot.”
He has taken it up with the refs on multiple occasions, only to sometimes be shown by Scott in game films the next day that he really wasn’t fouled. Still, Waiters concedes only a few of those and insists he is usually fouled, but not getting the calls because he is a rookie.
“I’ve got to do a better job of learning their names,” Waiters said. “I just go around the whole court calling, ‘Ref! Ref!’ The one ref told me, ‘Hey man, you’ve got to learn my name.’ So that’s what I do.”
Now when Waiters wants to get a referee’s attention, he first checks with assistant coach Jamahl Moseley to get the guy’s name. The only name he knows for sure is Joe Crawford. The two spent time chatting during dead balls and timeouts in a recent game in Milwaukee and Waiters appears to have an early favorite. “Joe’s a funny guy,” Waiters said. “He’s cool.”
Waiters believes he is doing a better job of attacking the basket in recent games and not settling for so many ill-advised jumpers. He continues to work on cleaning up his form. He has studied clips of guys like Harden and Wade on YouTube and hopes it will all pay off eventually.
“He gets to that foul line, he gets the calls,” Waiters said of Harden. “I’ve got to continue to keep attacking, earn my stripes, shut up and just play. I’m pretty sure I’ll start getting the calls eventually.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.