Waiters a better fit than Irving with new Cavs


VIDEO: Cavs close to acquiring Kevin Love

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Cleveland Cavaliers are a brand new team. LeBron James is coming home and Kevin Love is coming soon.

The pair joins a roster that went 57-107 over the last two seasons, with a point guard that’s thought of as a star, other unproven young guys, and a pair of centers that have dealt with injuries.

It’s up to new head coach David Blatt to bring it all together on both ends of the floor. But it’s also on the players to make the necessary adjustments so that the whole isn’t less than the sum of the parts. The Miami Heat didn’t quite figure out their identity until the end of their second season together, and they didn’t have as many players who were used to having the ball in their hands.

Who’s taking a back seat?

The Cavs will now have four guys – James (5th), Love (9th), Kyrie Irving (13th) and Dion Waiters (22nd) – who ranked in the top 25 in usage rate last season. At least two of those guys are going to have to say goodbye to the basketball.

Usage rate = Percentage of his team’s possessions that a player ended (via field goal attempts, free throw attempts, assists and turnovers) while he was on the floor.

In a chat at USA Basketball camp in Las Vegas last week, Waiters admitted that he’s still more comfortable with the ball in his hands. But he acknowledged that things are going to change now.

“I got to find a way to score,” Waiters said, “and I got to find ways to make the team better if I don’t have the ball.”

But Waiters should be more prepared for an adjustment than Irving. When the two shared the floor last season, it was Waiters’ usage rate that took a dip (from 29.5 percent to 24.4 percent). Irving’s usage rate actually went up a tick in those minutes.

Waiters can also look at his SportVU numbers to know that he can play off the ball. He was a very good shooter off the catch last season, but not so much off the dribble. His catch-and-shoot 3-point percentage (41.6 percent) was right with the Spurs’ Danny Green (41.5 percent).

Irving, meanwhile, is a rare breed, a guy who shot better off the dribble than off the catch. According to SportVU, Irving’s pull-up 3-point percentage (40.9 percent) was better than Kevin Durant‘s (40.7 percent) and Stephen Curry‘s (39.3 percent).

High-usage Cavs, 2013-14 3-point shooting, via SportVU

Pull-up Catch-and-shoot
Player 3PM 3PA 3P% Rk1 3PM 3PA 3P% Rk2 Diff. Rk3
Irving 72 176 40.9% 6 50 156 32.1% 151 -8.9% 74
James 49 159 30.8% 49 59 121 48.8% 2 17.9% 6
Love 34 103 33.0% 36 152 382 39.8% 63 6.8% 41
Waiters 19 73 26.0% 73 72 173 41.6% 35 15.6% 9

Rk1 = Rank among 86 players who attempted at least 50 pull-up 3-pointers
Rk2 = Rank among 166 players who attempted at least 100 catch-and-shoot 3-pointers
Rk3 = Rank among 74 players who attempted at least 50 pull-up threes and 100 catch-and-shoot threes

Yes, that’s LeBron James ranking No. 2 in catch-and-shoot 3-point percentage. Of the 166 guys who attempted at least 100 catch-and-shoot threes last season, only Kyle Korver (49.9 percent) was better. So, James will likely be better at playing off of Irving than Irving will be at playing off of James.

But James is also the best finisher in the league. And, according to SportVU, the Heat scored 1.32 points per James drive last season, the fourth highest mark among 166 players who drove at least 100 times. Nobody in the league puts more pressure on the opposing defense when he’s attacking the rim.

So James isn’t taking a back seat to anyone. As a floor-spacing big, Love is a perfect complement offensively. Mike Miller played 82 games last season and shot 45.9 percent (seventh of 166) on catch-and-shoot threes. And Waiters should also be fine playing off the ball, though he said last week that he’ll be watching some Dwyane Wade film to see how to make better cuts to the basket. Wade is one of the worst 3-point shooters in NBA history, but still found a way to play off James.

“You can’t be one-dimensional,” Waiters said. “I’m pretty sure I’ll watch film, watch the things D-Wade did. It helped him.

“At the end of the day, I think it’s going to work out. I just got to make those cuts and try to play the right way.”

But it’s Irving that has a much bigger adjustment to make. Not only did he shoot poorly off the catch last season, but the Cleveland offense was more efficient with back-up point guard Matthew Dellavedova on the floor (104.7 points scored per 100 possessions) than with Irving on the floor (101.7).

Dellavedova was also pretty good (39.2 percent) on catch-and-shoot threes. The 23-year-old Australian went undrafted, but Blatt likes him, and he could be a key piece on a contender in just his second season.

Irving and James will need time together to develop chemistry, but Blatt should consider staggering their minutes, so they each get time to work without the other.

Either way, the Cavs should certainly be a top-five offensive team. And if things come together right, they could rank No. 1 on that end of the floor.

How well will they defend?

It’s defense that will ultimately determine just how good the Cavs will be. Miami’s offense was pretty ridiculous last season, recording the highest effective field goal percentage in NBA history for the second straight year. But they fell off defensively, ranked 11th on that end of the floor, and couldn’t stop the Spurs’ attack in The Finals.

It was James’ worst defensive season since before he was ever an MVP, in part because Wade wasn’t always there (playing just 58 games) to help carry the offensive load. With Irving and Love to help with the offense, James can put more energy on D.

But the defense starts with Irving at the top. Not only was the Cavs’ offense better with Dellavedova on the floor last season, the defense was much better.

Rim protection is just as important as on-the-ball defense. And in that regard, the Cavs have a questionable frontline. Love is a terrific rebounder, but not a guy who alters shots. Of 94 players who defended at least four shots at the rim per game in 40 games or more, only three allowed a higher field goal percentage. One of them was Love’s new back-up, Tristan Thompson.

Anderson Varejao is a good pick-and-roll defender, but doesn’t defend the rim all that well either. And he’s played just 146 games over the last four seasons (235 fewer than James). Brendan Haywood is more of a rim-protecting center, but missed all of last season with a broken foot.

(Speaking of injuries, Waiters said he’s lost about 15 pounds, from 230 to 215, having cut “the candy, the pizza, the chips” from his diet and “really getting after it” with his workouts. That could help him with his defensive quickness, but he says his main goal is to “get through a whole season without missing any games.” He wants to arrive at camp at about 210 pounds.)

Under Mike Brown, the Cavs did show defensive improvement last season, moving up to 17th in defensive efficiency from 27th in Byron Scott‘s last season. Blatt had defensive success with the Russian National Team. And James is obviously a defensive upgrade over any small forward they’ve had in the four years since he left.

But, for the Cavs, the path to a top-10 ranking on defense isn’t as clear as it is on offense. Historically, defense has been more important than offense when it comes to title contention. So how quickly the Cavs learn a new system and build chemistry on that end of the floor will be a more critical development than how well their stars play off each other offensively.

59 Comments

  1. AkronsBig Mike #1 fan of LBJ says:

    When you have a great person leading your team with the personality to give one hundred and fifty percent on every play it’s going to motivate the rest of the team. That’s what you have in the leadership of LBJ. The total concentration on making his teammates get the full potential out of the efforts of their mental and physical basketball senses that God gave them. The most important duty of all is to give all the praise and glory to the Father. Without Him we could do nothing. I pray that the team will not suffer any injuries at all and no unlawful acts while carrying on they every day activities. Go Cleveland.

  2. sedajames says:

    I’m still scratching my head about the K Love trade. It makes total sense from a business standpoint as you become the must watch team just before new TV contract negotiations. Brilliant.

    But as far as titles, I find it hard to believe a team centered around two ball hogging all stars (Irving and Love) who have absolutely no playoff experience, paired up wit the worlds most overrated player (based on losing 3 of 5 final series – and nearly 4 of 5) is the makings of a dynasty? It takes chemistry, great coaching, and having the right pieces.

    Cleveland is setting themselves up to be Miami 2.0 by having all their cap tied up in three players. They may dominate the pathetically weak East, but they can’t beat the top teams in the West this year (even if they are lucky enough to find chemistry), and won’t have enough money after Love and LeBron resign to add anything but vet minimum deals. This recipe is one injury away from being a lottery team again. They should have stayed with their draft picks and developed.

    • If Cleveland plays there cards right they can match offers for Tristan Thompson and Deion Waiters as restricted free agents as well as Matthew Delledova.

      Don’t forget that there are a lot of “one trick pony” vets who would sign for cheap on a championship team. Remember how good Chris “Birdman” Anderson looked.

    • gg says:

      Cleveland is already Miami 2.0 I mean LBJ basically recruited all the useful role players from Miami over to Cleveland

  3. Labron fan says:

    I’m glad that none of these people making comments are making decisions for the Cavs. Waite until we can see what we have with this te4am for now. After the trade deadline in January then evaluate and make trade if needed here.

  4. All the teams can add the USA Team to their roster and the Spurs still beat them.

    To defeat the Spurs you need play in team (not 2 o 3 players) and playing basketball in team, no one is better than Spurs
    .YOU CANT BEAT 12 PLAYERS, WITH 2 OR 3.

    Spurs vs USA Team <<<< Best game ever! (I bet for the Spurs)

    • kjones082 says:

      too many mismatches the USA team has good coaching that will exploit all of them. Goodnight Spurs.

  5. kjones082 says:

    This will all work out well in the end no matter what. The worst that can possibly happen for this team is injuries. LeBron James is the greatest basketball mind in the game today. Even with bad coaches he has managed to make it out of the first round every time and win 60+ games multiple times with less talent surrounding him. Cavs should be #1 in the east next year. After all, that is where he left them in 2010.

    • kjones082 says:

      Watch out because last time LeBron played for Cleveland they had the best home record in the NBA and in NBA history 39-2, with one of those losses being with LeBron sitting out. #they lost in 2OT. This next season with be filled with emotion from LeBron and the city plus you will see a better team here than you saw in Miami the last 4 years. I would say keep Wiggins and let him develop under LeBron and in 4 years LeBron will be 33-34 and still be going to the Finals consistently. He is definitely the real deal.#if Dion waiters is anything like Dwyane Wade other than their initials and weight loss programs the Cavaliers will be in the Finals.

  6. Pahoot says:

    Now that Wiggins is Traded They Need an Excellent Defender like Wiggins
    To Take over at the defensive end, I would go for Shawn Marion and there the same team its like keep Wiggins on the defensive end but the added Kevin Love To Boost the offense. Good Luck Getting Shawn Marion, They Should Also make a little push for Ray Allen

  7. why everyone is talking about trading irving, he should not be traded he has lot of talent, and with lebron he will mature. people talking to many wrong stuff the only questin should be love defend cause i know kyrie defend will improve

  8. usa says:

    i know kyrie will defend better but my question is about love cause on defend he has slow movement, i hope this works out with love and he undertands that he has to defend better, hope he turns in to a bosh on the defence side cause bosh wasnt good defender when he was on toronto but turn in to a good defender with the heat

  9. See red says:

    Bulls will pound the cavs down low, rebounding, blocking shots, on defense…. They got no chance against rose, butler, mcdermott, gasol, and Noah vs Irving, waiters, James, love, and varejao. Rose wins the point guard. Butler wins shooting guard. James wins small forward. Love wins power forward, and Noah wins center. 3-2 bulls

    • MR JAY says:

      i think different..irving is a much better point guard then d rose man..just my personal opinion..

  10. Ed says:

    I’d trade Irving to Boston for Rondo and one of their prospects

  11. igat_06 says:

    Hoping the matrix will join the party…

  12. whydahate says:

    The next finals will Dallas and Cleveland. I know it sounds crazy but Dallas will give the Spurs fits. So will the Clippers.

  13. CTEZ says:

    All of these comments are dumb…Cleveland picked up … Lebrom, Wiggings even tho he gone get traded, Kevin Love, James Jones, and Mike Miller in one offseason. No other team had a better offseason except the mavs in my opinion…so stop hating and realize Cleveland is building a dynasty and it starts with The King so whether you like it or not the Cavs will be contending every year. Aw yea they also have Kyrie, Dion, and Varajo. Open your eyes dummies.

  14. Bu says:

    Irving is overrated, and been spoiled. So I agree with the guys here on trading him for a better PG, as LBJ can catch & shoot and be played off of. Having said that this PG must be a good shooter & defender in order to play off of LBJ when he has the ball. Actually, Mo Williams during this Cav days wasn’t a bad complement to LBJ except he seemed a bit shaken up by pressure.

    Lastly is D. I still don’t understand why ppl don’t give credit to Defensive systems and still talking about individual players. Even if they get Marion, individual D can only do so much. It’s always help D and rotation, and tactics that does the job.

    Blatt? His and his coaching staff has a lot to prove on D, as well as some of the players. There is no rim protector but if they have good system, get Varejao healthy, and Love & Irving & Waiters plays more D, that should be adequate.

  15. Jae Porter says:

    It will be very fun & exciting to see rhis upcoming season but regardless of who gets past the Eastern conference finals the spurs are gonna win it all. I’m not even a spurs fan but who has better chemistry & synergy?

  16. Raymer Nivar says:

    I feel like years from now the cavs are going to look back at what they did with wiggins just like the hornets and kobe and just say DAMN.

  17. thespectator says:

    as long as you got LBJ on your team in his prime…cant rule them out of at least the nba finals.

  18. .......... says:

    I really think Wiggins will benefit very much in the trade. He would be Number 1 Guy in Minnesota. And If Minnesota can pull off Bennett for thad young they would have an insanely defensive starting line up in 2-3 years. Rubio – Lavine – Wiggins – Young – Dieng.

  19. asdf says:

    The biggest questionmark about this cavs team is how are they gonna defend? Lebron is the only dominant defender they have. and he had the worst year defensively last year since 2005 I beleive, even tho he had to carry a big burden offensively, This year with kevin Love, waiters and Irving he probaly wont have to spend all of his energy on offense.

  20. JC says:

    Hi,Lebron tried to destroy Miami heat with his move , the last season in the play off he should do better job but he didn’t , you know why , because he planning all this long time ago , he want a team where he is the only boss , in miami that is impossible , Miami Heat need hire only one guard to win another champion chip , the name is : Ramon sessions , if they can do that forget about any other team , and about cavaliers , they have player but not team , there will be the fight to see which is better , then that will be a disaster , last year i predicted : Indiana lost when they fire Danny Granger , and here is my prediction for this season : cavalier with lebron never will win any champion chip , the champion chip will be in the western , the only team capable to win will be miami if hire a good guard llike Ramon sessions

    Thank you for you attention

  21. Dragic says:

    D Wade is one of the worst three point shooters in NBA history.. Definitely not a great three point shooter but one of the worst? Not at all

  22. dustydreamnz says:

    Yeah, agree with Tremill. Teams who make lots of changes very rarely win the first season after.

  23. rc says:

    “The Miami Heat didn’t quite figure out their identity until the end of their second season together, and they didn’t have as many players who were used to having the ball in their hands.”

    Uhhhh… What?!
    Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, LeBron James were all the absolute #1 options on their teams before Mia.. and they ALWAYS had the ball in their hands..

    • Bball says:

      “Didn’t have as many” as four players handling the ball. Sure Wade & LeBron (not Bosh??) used to have the ball in their hands running the floor, and both Wade, LeBron & Bosh were the no.1 SCORING options in their resp. team. Although, neither of the teams they played for at the time had that many ball handlers. Period.

  24. Gillsy says:

    I don’t think Thompson will be Love’s back up as much as people think. Their is a good chance that when Varejao goes to the bench. Love will go to the 5 and Thompson the 4. So he will probably play more than people think. The three of them as a unit will pull some boards down. Irving has already admitted that his style of game will have to change with playing two points in the starting line up.

  25. what if? says:

    what if they trade kyrie and bennet for love and rubio? wolves would get a star plus a 1st overall pick while the cavs get love and a true pg with better defense than kyrie.throw in a couple of draft picks from the cavs. i dont know much about trade stuffs though

    • ?????? says:

      that is not an even trade, just in terms of player talent, but it’s also not a good fit for either team. the cavs could use rubio’s defense, but they don’t need a true point with lebron on the roster. and he’s a terrible shooter.

    • I agree says:

      Trading Irving is a good idea, BUT, he doesnt have what Wiggins has. Wiggins is 6’7″, insanely athletic, and defends like a demon. He has the potential to be the next MJ…or Kobe….and if his mentality isnt strong anough to be them then he will at very least be a Vince Carter or Mcgrady type. Irving is sick and smooth but will never be on that level due to his height.

      I think having a true point like Rubio would be much better then ANOTHER shooter, but thats just not a good enough trade.

      and you cant give up Bennet, Irving and wiggins

      Maybe trade Wiggins, Thompson and Bennet for Love and Rubio ???

      • Jae Porter says:

        That’s a terrible comparison & way to disrespect VC &T-Mac they didn’t flourish because if INJURIES

      • MR JAY says:

        dude ur ridiculous..no offense wiggins. but how can u call him a defense demon when hes never guarded melo or durant or lebron..u guard them dudes an hold them to low offensice stat…then u a demon..ask kawhi lol..and to compare to tmac? mj? kobe? wiggins has yet to prove himself to the nba. bad move for the cavs to lose him. but damn the wolves get a chance to b great. rubio an wiggins and bennet..wolves will make a statement this year. we will see them in the playoffs for sure

    • ilhamisutcu says:

      obviously you don’t , cuz that is a terrible idea.

    • JCSAM says:

      I dont think trading Wiggins its a good idea. If is me, based on those eff. statistics, I swap Love for Irving. Plain and simple. If money is a problem, then I make it work. But there is something about Irving that does not feels like CHAMPION. I think that James, Waiters, Love, Miller, Varejao, Thompson, Haywood, Dellavedova, Bennete, Jones, Allen or MArion will be bertter with Wiggins than with Irving. YES, this season not the future.

  26. randomguy says:

    Yup, Kyrie Irving was always going to the question for the Cavs. I to be honest, dislike him very much. He ball hogs, doesn’t defend and is flashy even though his team floundered. He reminded me of Melo, a great individual player who cannot lead a team to success because he lacks the key ingredients to being a true hall of famer (defense and leadership). With Lebron, he doesn’t need to be a leader, but his defense is still very questionable, and now he has to learn to play off the ball. Hopefully he does improve and learn from Lebron what it takes to be a great player, because I really dislike players with so much talent squandering it all and I do not want to watch another Melo.

    • allaroundballer says:

      And still coach K picks irving over wall, its ridiculous. USA doesn’t need all those flashy handler against zone defense. My NBA fantasy would trade Irving for Love rather than Wiggins. Cavs could use him for wing defender and somehow try to get Bledsoe.
      PG Bledsoe, SG Wiggins/Waiters, SF James, PF Love, C Varejao

      That roster could operate way better on both side of the court

      • E says:

        Irving for love?? Just to keep an unproven rookie ,, and you say get Bledsoe ???? WTF!??! (Throws hands up)

  27. harriethehawk says:

    I think the top 4 teams in the East will be Chicago, Wizards, Cavaliers and Hawks. Here are the key factors for who will be the Leastern Conference champs: is Rose healthy? Will Nene stay healthy? Can Cavaliers develop good chemistry-who will give up the ball that is used to having it in their hands? Will the Hawks develop good chemistry w/ “new players” Horford, Sefalosha and Bazemore? And will Horford be healthy? Let’s not forget that the Hawks were 3rd seeding prior to Al Horford hurting his shoulder. Let’s Go Hawks!!!

  28. tremill says:

    The cavs wont win this year but the next three years will be interesting in the east with the bulls and dc coming up. Just like last year the east is still somewhat wide open. Bulls and cavs have the best chance going to the finals. With love cavs have the best chance. Not because of him solely but because he is playing with bron. Rose hasnt played in nearly two years. The bulls will have more growing pains than cavs.

  29. jv says:

    wizard vs. spurs in the finals

  30. AkronsBig Mike #1 fan of LBJ says:

    To be a top contender in this league you have to have all the right pieces in all the right place. The Cavaliers qualify in that department. Now with LBJ being back in the foes, we have the common denominator that determines a championship team and that is the heart of its leaders and the mindset is to whip that man in front of you no matter what name he carries. To always remember to NEVER GIVE UP OR QUIT even to the bitter end. Good luck and God Bless you CAVALIERS.

  31. zhiggi says:

    It’s all about chemistry and system if they have both in tandem then Cavs will be a team to look out for….

  32. Ali says:

    Dwayne Wade is one of the worst 3 point shooters in NBA history?? Bold statement

  33. Erlo says:

    I cannot wait for the NBA season and the new look Cavs. I will be getting my NBA Gametime as soon as it is available. How about some HD options though? These standard broadcasts are killing me.

  34. cakewalk for the bulls and the cavs next season…finals would probably be spurs vs bulls though

  35. okc bandwagones sinse 2011 says:

    irving doesnt dip the ball when he shots, but when off the drible, u automaticly shoot off the dip
    that is what pro shot system said , and it aplys 100 % to irving

  36. Domor says:

    Everything starts with Kyrie but yeah Haywood needs to be upgraded. Prob is that you wont get a decent rim protector for him.

    • R U joking says:

      You have LeBron and Love and your gonna say it all starts with Kyrie….
      you dont know basketball

      When you have LBJ on your team, the game only starts with him

      Common man!!!!

  37. Chuck says:

    The more relevant question is who is going to play defense. This team as constituted is not exactly the Celtics from the 60s. The Cavs have deep defensive flaws plus guys who need the ball, not a great combination. Gilbert and Lebron deserve each other.

  38. A.J. says:

    Waiters, with his usual hilarity. He said the same thing about cutting weight last year at training camp. Waiters has no business being on that team.

    • R U joking says:

      Thats a fact, AND hes a great trading piece because he is a superb scorer with a killers mentality.
      Trade him for a BIG :)

      • No Im not!!!!! says:

        I agree, trade Waiters and his bad attitude to any other team that has a C+ or better big!!!!