Anger over Cavs pick quickly turns to calm
JUN 29, 2012 6:13p ET
I heard commissioner David Stern announce Dion Waiters' name, and immediately thought, "You gotta be kidding me."
All I knew was Waiters played two years at Syracuse -- and didn't even start. I knew that in my countless conversations with general managers and scouts prior to the draft, his name was never even mentioned. Not once.
Then a little later, I heard he had a couple run-ins with Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. Wasn't exactly impressed with that bit of information, either.
I also remembered how I watched an entire NCAA tournament game between Syracuse and Ohio State, and had no recollection of Waiters whatsoever. Not good, not bad. Nothing.
Plus, GM Chris Grant admitted the Cavs hadn't worked out Waiters, hadn't so much as interviewed him. No one did.
This is the guy the Cavs settled on, ahead of bigger names such as Thomas Robinson, Harrison Barnes and Andre Drummond? This is Kyrie Irving's backcourt-mate of the future?
So I watched some video of Waiters. I placed some phone calls. I sent some texts.
And I received nothing but positive vibes.
One opposing GM told me there's a reason everyone acted surprised when Waiters was drafted, why Waiters was considered the draft's best-kept secret. "We all kept our mouths shut about him in hopes that he'd slide," the GM said.
"Outstanding pick," another said. "Story of the draft. Clevelanders are gonna love this guy."
Well, if you say so. But why?
"First of all, he's gritty and he plays with an edge," added a third opposing executive. "Along with that, he can fill it up, he can handle the ball, he plays with an extraordinary amount of confidence. He believes he's the best player on the court, and when he's on, man, he usually is."
The more I heard, the more I understood why Waiters wasn't listed as a top-five pick heading into the draft. The more I heard, the more I believed.
Waiters wasn't a reach, I was told. He was drafted right where he should've been. Even national television and radio analysts began hopping on the Waiters train.
"The Cavs need a dynamic wing player who can score and play well off (Irving)," said an opposing scout. "In my opinion, that's Waiters."
Then came word from the Cavs.
Prior to the draft, Grant asked Cavs coach Byron Scott who he liked.
"I want Waiters," Scott said.
Grant confirmed with a smile. "This is Byron's guy," he said.
In fact, Scott said the only player he valued more was Kentucky forward Anthony Davis, who went No. 1 overall to the Hornets.
No kidding? Waiters? The second-best prospect?
"In my mind, he was," Scott said.
So am I totally sold on Waiters? No. But you can't sell me on anyone the day after the draft. You may not even be able to sell me a year from now.
Then again, this isn't about a year from now. For the Cavs, it's about two, maybe three, seasons down the road.
It's why they took Waiters, it's why they traded three late picks (including two second-rounders) for athletic North Carolina center Tyler Zeller, originally drafted 17th by the Mavericks. They want to win now, yes, but they also want to find the right parts for the future.
Are Waiters and Zeller two key pieces to the future? Heck if I know.
But at least I'm considerably more willing to find out. Everyone, after all, keeps saying that I need to give it a chance -- that a player like Waiters will make me smile in the long run. And the long run is all that really matters.
Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO
+ SHOW COMMENTS +