The Cleveland Cavaliers are heading into a very exciting season with the re-signing of LeBron James and acquisition of Kevin Love, but they still need more role players to step up around their big three. One of those players is Dion Waiters, who has shown a great ability to score the ball, but has also had some issues off the court. Cleveland is likely going to be asking Waiters to slide into the starting shooting guard role with Andrew Wiggins being traded to Minnesota, and he will finally have the chance to prove his worth to the NBA.
Could Waiters end up being the Cavaliers’ X-Factor for their championship hopes this season?
There is no denying Waiters’ ability to score the ball, and that is exactly what the Cavaliers will be asking him to do to help take pressure off of the big three. He’s not going to get a ton of looks per game with Love, James, and Irving all taking their shots, but he will have the opportunity to score the ball as defenses key in on those three players. Waiters hasn’t had a history of playing well with Irving over the past year and a half, but playing alongside James could just calm those issues down.
Waiters ended up playing in 70 regular season games last season with Cleveland, averaging 15.9 points, 3.0 assists, and 2.8 rebounds per game. He showed the ability to score the ball from anywhere on the floor, and ended up shooting 36.8% from behind the three-point arc. His shooting ability will need to be at its best this season, as he will get open looks due to both Irving and James driving to the rim and kicking out to their shooters.
While the Cavaliers definitely have the talent to win a championship this season, their defense is still something that needs work. They will be a team that outscores their opponents to win basketball games, and they will need every role player that they have to step up and support the stars. Waiters is the best scorer that the Cavaliers can put on the floor that is not part of the big three, and he will have to come up big in key games when defenses are focusing on the other three dynamic scorers.
If Waiters is able to get his attitude in check, there is no denying that he can be a legitimate scoring threat and a huge relief of pressure off of James and Irving. He has the ability to handle the ball and allow both Irving and James to play off of the ball, which is something that could be dangerous as well. When everything is said and done, the Cavaliers are going to rely heavily on Waiters during their playoff run, assuming they get there as everyone is expecting.
Overall, this is going to be a very exciting season to watch the Cavaliers as they have gone from missing the playoffs to having expectations for competing for a championship. James returning to Cleveland and Love joining him is obviously the biggest story that everyone is watching, but Waiters is another intriguing player to follow this year. He could end up being the X-Factor for Cleveland as they look to make a run and bring a championship to Cleveland.
Evan Massey is a Staff Writer for Hoops-Nation.com. Follow Evan on Twitter at @Massey_Evan.