The Cleveland Cavaliers are making a push with five weeks remaining in the regular season to try and carve out a position for themselves in the 2014 NBA Playoffs. It’s a long-shot at this point as they currently trail the Atlanta Hawks and the eighth seed by 3.5 games, but they’re pretty clearly trying to make some kind of a run.
The Cavs pulled off a big victory to help their plight on Friday night against the postseason-bound Golden State Warriors. Thanks to a big effort from Spencer Hawes and some clutch play from star point guard Kyrie Irving to seal the win, the Cavs pulled off the upset by a score of 103-94.
However, the unsung hero for the Cavaliers was certainly Dion Waiters in his seemingly customary sixth man role with this team. Seeing the floor for 31 minutes off of the bench, Waiters put up 18 points, four assists, one rebound and one steal on solid 8-17 shooting from the floor and 2-5 shooting from deep.
Despite a tumultuous start, the second-year guard seems to have found his niche coming off of the bench. In 44 games off of the bench, he’s averaging more points and more assists per game than he did in nine games at the beginning of the year in the starting lineup. He’s truly seemed like a different and more effective player when asked to bring a spark off of the bench.
Though it’s unlikely for the 22-year-old this season, Waiters has the look of a player who could be a perennial NBA Sixth Man of the Year candidate for years to come. One of the most important parts of finding individual success in this league is finding a role that allows you to best utilize your talents, which seems to have happened with Waiters this season in Cleveland.
Don’t get me wrong, Waiters still has a great deal to learn. He’s got to learn to pick his spots and shots better, has to learn how to gel with his teammates better, and needs to develop his shot further. However, the Cavs seemed to have stumbled onto something this year that will keep Waiters on a positive trajectory for his career.