At 4-11 heading into the weekend, the Cleveland Cavaliers don’t look like they’re in much position to contend for the NBA Playoffs. That doesn’t mean the team is sitting idle, though. The Cavs appear interested in dealing one of their best scorers, guard Dion Waiters.
Waiters is averaging 13.8 points per contest – good for second on the team behind only budding star, Kyrie Irving. Waiters averages 2.3 assists and 3.2 rebounds and is largely known for his ability to score but has trouble doing even that. This season, he’s connected on only 40 percent of his attempts from the floor. He’s really been an inefficient scorer and, for a shooting guard, that’s a below average number. Waiters’ true value is as a three-point shooter, where he’s also averaging 40 percent. That number is much more manageable from beyond the arc and Waiters can add significant value to a team looking for a three-point threat.
However, Waiters doesn’t do much else and he also turns the ball over a bit too much (2.3 turnovers per game, though his assist-to-turnover ratio is a modest 1:1). Largely considered an average defender, overall he is a solid but unspectacular player. The key thing to remember, though, is at 21, he still has plenty of potential to improve. Waiters played only one year of college and is the equivalent of a college junior this season. He has a lot to work on, but is several years away from even reaching his prime.
Cleveland is fielding all kinds of offers for him and according to ESPN. The team has spoken to the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, and Philadelphia 76ers about a potential trade. Waiters shot down speculation that he has asked for a trade and there’s also talk that he’s just not fitting in well in Cleveland with Irving. Whether any of that’s true or not, on the surface, all of those teams would appear to be decent fits.
All three teams are shooting below 33 percent from three-point range, ranking near the bottom of the NBA. Each could really use someone like Waiters to help knock down shots and picking up a young shooter that should continue to get better should be something of interest to them. The key is what the Cavs want in return for him.
Per that ESPN piece, Cleveland might be reaching for the moon.
The Cavaliers are reportedly targeting Evan Turner from the Sixers, but in a 1-1 swap, that would be a horrible decision for Philly. Turner isn’t only a better scorer than Waiters, chipping in 21 points per game this year, but he does more, hauling in 7.1 rebounds. Even as a small forward, Turner averages significantly more assists per contest than Waiters (3.9 to 2.3). If Cleveland wants Turner, they’ll almost certainly need to part with more than their shooting guard.
Another rumored target is the Chicago Bulls’ Luol Deng. The Bulls could get younger with Waiters and Deng may be on his way out of Chicago at some point, but (correctly or incorrectly) this is a team that still has hopes of competing for the Eastern Conference. The Bulls were already relying on Deng to do a lot and with the recent loss of star Derrick Rose, Chicago needs him even more and that’s evident as his scoring has risen drastically to more than 24 points a game since Rose’s injury. It’s difficult to see them parting with their best scorer unless they received something big in return … and Waiters simply isn’t that.
The most realistic target of the three mentioned by ESPN is New York’s Iman Shumpert. Shumpert still has some promise, but is failing miserably as a starter for the Knicks this year, who had hoped to contend for a conference title. He’s playing more minutes this season but he is still only scoring about the same amount he did last season at seven points a game. More importantly, Shumpert hasn’t been a very good shooter this year, connecting on 40 percent of his shots and 32 percent of his three-pointers. It’s hard to imagine why Cleveland would target him unless they would receive more in return.
There will be interest in Waiters from some teams. He’s a young scorer that should continue to get better over the next few years. If Cleveland wants to move him, though, receiving a star in return isn’t likely to happen.