Before I say anything about the guy I’m previewing, I would just like to let everyone know that I love watching Syracuse basketball. The six overtime game against UConn, the 2003 national chamionship, you name it. I love Syracuse basketball, and just Big East basketball in general. I believe the Big East (or at least before teams change conferences) has the most entertaining basketball in the NCAA. Their conference tournament is without a doubt the best in college basketball, but I digress. Let’s zone in on the Orange guard Dion Waiters.
Similar to the other more hyped freshman, Austin Rivers, Dion plays well off the pick-and-roll and has the ability to create his own offense off the screen. Both have great penetration ability and can get to the charity stripe with ease. While both Rivers and Waiters measure up at 6′ 4″, Waiters definitely has more muscle on him, allowing him to comfortably post up smaller guards. Waiters also has the advantage in ball control as he had fewer turnovers and fouls per game. The thing to keep in mind though is that Waiters averaged just 24mpg in comparison to 33mpg for Rivers.
So what else does Waiters do well? He hustles on the defensive end, and this let Jim Boeheim give him more time towards the end of the year. Although he is a product of the classic Syracuse zone, Waiters consistently stays in front of his man in any type of defensive setup. He can also use his superior strength (for a guard) to get through screens. Waiters can also provide a team with good ball movement despite not being a true point guard by any means. Even with the lower minutes, he still averaged more assists than Rivers. This is huge considering that Rivers is seen as more capable of playing the point even though the Wolves have Rubio.
As we all know, not everybody is perfect. This is especially true in the case of Dion Waiters. He can uses screens very well, but in many other situations not so much. His field goal percentage is inflated due to the fact that 28% of his possessions are in the transition game, but at least he can get out and run. He is best served by working on his jump shot in order to be a truly effective NBA player. Wesley Johnson was supposedly the next great sharp shooter to enter the league, but as we all know he lacks the confidence and killer instinct. As for his defensive ability, we won’t really know until he plays man defense night in and night out. We can count on the fact that he will hustle, try to force the turnover, then run the floor, but how well can he do it against more elite ball handlers?
Then again, most teams won’t really know what they’re getting until that player steps on the floor for the first time. Did anyone expect Kwame Brown to be one of the biggest busts in sports history? No. The same goes for how Kobe Bryant’s draft rights were traded for Vlade Divac, or how guys like Rashard Lewis, Michael Redd, and Gilbert Arenas were 2nd round gems.
Just one more silly thing for David Kahn to take note of. He doesn’t have the ridiculously photogenic smile that Wesley Johnson and Jonny Flynn have, so maybe Waiters will make up for that by being the best player of the trio. Like Rivers, we know he can defend and score, but the real question is can he score without taking a lot of shots and play more efficiently in half court offenses?
Next up: Alexey Shved (Special Euro-Hype Edition!)
Note: Shved is a European free agent looking to sign with a team in the NBA. He has played his professional basketball for CSKA Moscow and is ineligible to be drafted. Rumors say Minnesota is one of three teams in contention to sign him along with Memphis and Oklahoma City.