2013--14 RECORD: 33--49 (3RD IN CENTRAL) COACH: DAVID BLATT (1ST SEASON WITH CAVALIERS)
Dion Waiters is many things. He is a scorer, averaging 15.9 points last season. He is aggressive, launching 14.2 shots in 29.6 minutes and ranking 18th in drives to the basket. And he is brash, declaring his pairing with point guard Kyrie Irving to be the NBA's best backcourt.
The Cavaliers, however, need the 22-year-old to be something he hasn't been: a deadeye shooter. Cleveland's revamped offense will feature a steady diet of pick-and-rolls involving Irving, LeBron James and Kevin Love, meaning Waiters's primary responsibility will be to space the floor.
The good news? The 6'4" Waiters, drafted fourth in 2012, has the potential to burn defenses for focusing on the Big Three. He raised his three-point accuracy from 31.0% as a rookie to a slightly above average 36.8%, with his proficiency increasing to 41.6% in catch-and-shoot situations. His marksmanship improved from 40.1% to 43.1% on attempts outside the paint and inside the arc. "There are going to be a lot of open shots," says Waiters. "I've just got to knock them down."
To prepare, Waiters says he devoted much of his summer to polishing his jumper. He spent two weeks in Los Angeles with Love and has attached himself to James during the preseason. "The only way to rewrite the notion of, 'Can Dion fit in this?' is to play the right way and to dominate his opposition every single night," says James. "That's all he should worry about."
20.8 PPG; 6.1 APG; 43.0 FG%; 35.8 3FG%
15.9 PPG; 3.0 APG; 43.3 FG%; 36.8 3FG%
27.1 PPG; 6.9 RPG; 6.3 APG; 56.7 FG%
26.1 PPG; 12.5 RPG; 45.7 FG%; 37.6 3FG%
11.7 PPG; 9.2 RPG; 0.9 APG; 47.7 FG%
8.4 PPG; 9.7 RPG; 2.2 APG; 49.5 FG%
10.4 PPG; 6.5 RPG; 1.2 SPG; 48.2 FG%
With instant chemistry and an awesome offense, the Cavs deliver Cleveland a long-awaited championship.
The defense isn't up to snuff, and Blatt and the Big Three need more time to fine-tune.
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE CAVALIERS
Their offense will feature spread pick-and-roll with a lot of catch-and-shoot opportunities. They will also run elbow isolations for LeBron James and Kevin Love—that's the toughest place to double-team. And David Blatt will have them pushing the ball off misses and turnovers.... James and Love will be great together. A three-four pick-and-roll is unusual and leaves guards trying to protect behind it, which creates easier chances at the rim. Teams will go under the screen and force James to shoot, but his shot has become so much better. And those two guys will be smart enough to re-screen if they don't get what they want.... Kyrie Irving didn't always look engaged last season, when the losing seemed to get to him. He plays better with quality players around him, like he did for Team USA at the FIBA World Cup. He still has to prove he can run a team for 82 games, but he has all the talent, including one of the league's best handles. One-three pick-and-rolls with Irving and James will be a nightmare to guard.... Dion Waiters needs to accept being the fourth option. If he can't do it, you'll see more of Mike Miller and James Jones.... The defense could be an issue, especially inside. Love can be exploited—but moving to a contender, on a team with a leader who has won titles, will make him raise his intensity. Tristan Thompson is undersized [at 6'9", 238 pounds] if he plays the five. Anderson Varej√£o's health is always a concern.... Thompson has good hands and is active on the offensive glass. Varej√£o has the better ball skills.
DAVID SHERMAN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Thompson is now surrounded by stars.