There is a lot of like about Dion Waiters. He brings a lot of toughness, having grown up in Philadelphia, and plays with an edge. Some NBA scouts believe Waiters will be a star at the pro level.
There is also a lot to dislike about Dion Waiters. He wasn’t a starter last season at Syracuse, doesn’t have great measurables, and didn’t play a lot of man-to-man defense in college because Jim Boeheim prefers the 2-3 zone.
You have to wonder what the Cleveland Cavaliers there thinking when they selected Waiters with the fourth overall pick in Thursday’s 2012 NBA draft. It was easily the most stunning move of the night given the recent history of Syracuse players in the Association.
Syracuse players in the Boeheim era are more likely to fizzle in the NBA than thrive. That is a proven fact. It happened to Dwayne “Pearl” Washington, it happened to Billy Owens, it happened to Lawrence Moten, it happened to Adrian Autry, and it happened to Gerry McNamara, it happened to Hakim Warrick, it happened to Jonny Flynn, and it happened to Wesley Johnson.
Flynn was the fifth overall pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves 2009 and it was THE WORST first-round pick that year. Flynn was a fish out of water and is now struggling to hook up with a team — any pro team. The Timberwolves obviously didn’t learn their lesson with Flynn because the follow year in 2010 they selected Wes Johnson, another first-round bust out of the Boeheim program.
There are a few exceptions. Derrick Coleman, Rony Seikaly and Sherman Douglas all had long, good NBA careers and Carmelo Anthony is one of the 15 best players in the league.
Waiters is hoping to have a long productive NBA career, and he seems to embrace the challenge. He is a good player and certainly deserves to go in the first round of the draft. But to be selected fourth overall is beyond surprising. Even Waiters was stunned he was picked that early.
“I’m very surprised. Top five. That’s every kid’s dream,” Waiters said. “I’m very thankful.”
Waiters said he had a tough time transitioning from high school to college because he never came off the bench until he got to Syracuse. He often clashed with Boeheim, but he says the “tough love” and made him into a better player.
The Cavs had a multitude of options with the No. 4 pick. They could have gone with Kansas’ Thomas Robinson, North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes, Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb, or even Duke’s Austin Rivers. Talent-wise, Rivers may be the second-best player in the draft behind Anthony Davis and the Cavs would have had a lethal Duke-and-Duke combo with Rivers and Kyrie Irving.
Instead, general manager Chris Grant decided to roll the dice on a player who will have the added burden of being the fourth player taken in the 2012 draft.