“With the fourth pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers select Dion Waiters from Syracuse University.”
Growing up in upstate New York, I have been a Syracuse basketball fan for years, and seeing as I’m also a Cavs fan, the day they drafted Waiters was the day I became more of a man. Not really, but let’s just say I was really, really happy. So far in his NBA career, Waiters has been a bit of a streaky scorer who has teased fans with flashes of brilliance, but a somewhat crowded backcourt has limited his upside.
Trade Kyrie Irving.
I’m obviously kidding. Kyrie is arguably my favorite player in basketball, but Waiters is high up on that list, too. Throughout the beginning of the 2013 season, Waiters had been coming off the bench, as Kyrie and Jarrett Jack man the starting roles. There was a ton of madness in the Cavs locker room, followed by some trade rumors surrounding Waiters. I’m glad Cleveland kept him and so are fantasy owners.
With Kyrie likely out for the rest of the season with a biceps injury, Waiters will continue to handle as much run as possible. He has been a must-start fantasy option not only in seasonal leagues, but in daily fantasy hoops, as well. During the six games Irving has missed with the injury, Waiters has been stellar, averaging 22.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, six assists and a triple per game. He’s dominated the offense for Cleveland with Kyrie out. When Irving is on the court this year, he is averaging a usage rate of 28.1, the 6th-highest in all of basketball. So obviously, when he’s not available, someone has to take over.
Enter Waiters, who is sporting an awesome usage rate of 29.2 percent when Irving is off the court. That’s very significant when you consider that only four players in basketball post a usage rate over 29 on the year, two of which hail out of Oklahoma City.
When you post that usage rate, to go along with 90.4 offensive possessions per game, you obviously are going to shoot the ball quite a bit. As fantasy owners know, Waiters loves to shoot the basketball, which, of course, translates to fantasy success. On the season, Waiters was already averaging a healthy 14 shots per game, despite being in a limited role. However, look at his numbers during the six-game stretch without Irving. The guy is averaging a ridiculous 20.1 shots per game during that span. To put that into perspective, only Carmelo Anthony, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Durant average 20 shot attempts per game or more on the season. That’s not to say that Waiters would average these same numbers if he were the focal point of an offense for the entire season, but the guy does love to shoot. Not only does he love to shoot, but he tries to take high percentage shots. On the year, Waiters is averaging a strong 7.3 drives per game, which is top-20 in all of basketball.
This is going to absolutely kill me to speculate, but if Kyrie finds himself out of Cleveland and the keys to the city are handed to Waiters, he could be unleashed into a fantasy star. Though it is a very, very small sample size, over the last seven days, Waiters ranks as the number five shooting guard on ESPN’s Player Rater. Still, he does have that type of upside if he serves as the main source of offense for a club. Keeper league players need to highlight Waiters.
But as a Cavaliers fan, I am selfishly hoping they hang onto both Kyrie and Waiters.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.