Dion Waiters On Bradley Beal’s Best Backcourt Talk: “That’s Nonsense”

By: 09.30.14
Dion Waiters

Dion Waiters (David Richard, USATODAY)

There’s a fine line between confidence and hubris. The great players routinely toe it, careful not to cross and fall victim to the pitfalls of brash and outright arrogance. Dion Waiters isn’t and he doesn’t, two realities that led to him butting heads with Kyrie Irving and the rest of his teammates in a toxic Cleveland Cavaliers locker room over the past two years. But Waiters maintains he has a new attitude this season, and is primed for big things on the court given that new maturation and a summer of diligent training. For his pointed dig at the Washington Wizards’ John Wall and Bradley Beal to hold weight, though, Waiters will need to do far more than say all of the right things.

Asked to respond to Beal’s recent assertion that he and Wall are “definitely the league’s best backcourt,” Waiters didn’t mince words.

Assuming he didn’t mean to imply that guard tandems of the Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns, or another team were superior to Washington’s, it seems Waiters believes he and Irving are the league’s best backcourt. That’s ridiculous, of course, but what do you expect a player of Waiters’ attitude to say? This is the same guy that tweeted his displeasure at the prospect of coming off the bench when the Cavs drafted Andrew Wiggins. It would have been extremely out of character for Waiters to offer any other take.

But that doesn’t mean his foolhardy boast isn’t worth analyzing. And while it’s Waiters’ own presence that keeps Cleveland’s backcourt from being among basketball’s best more than anything else, Irving’s doesn’t singularly elevate it the way most assume, either.

We’ve touched on this on several occasions, but the MVP-winning force of the FIBA World Cup wasn’t the Irving who played for the Cavs in 2013-2014. Kyrie had an unequivocally poor season last year by objective and subjective measures, notching efficiency lows across the board, subsisting on an unhealthy diet of long two-pointers, and failing to make progress on his much-derided defense. There’s every reason to believe Irving will bounce back in 2014-2015 given his summer performance and influence of LeBron James, but he took a turn the wrong direction a season ago. Anyone saying otherwise simply wasn’t paying attention.

But Kyrie, obviously, wasn’t poor enough in his third campaign to disqualify Cleveland from the discussion altogether. Waiters was better last season than in his mostly dreadful rookie year, but not enough to even be considered a net positive performer. It was as a shooter that he made his biggest strides: After putting up poor marks on two-point jumpers and three-point tries in 2012-2013, Waiters managed solid numbers from mid-range and beyond the arc last season. But his reliance on those pull-up shots was still a problem, and an approach that must change given the Cavs’ offensive overhaul necessitated by the arrival of James.

And as for Waiters’ defense, effort remains a huge issue. No player this side of Dwyane Wade lags on the wrong side of the floor after missing a shot than Waiters, a lack of focus and engagement than can plague him in the halfcourt, too. That’s extra frustrating considering the flashes of worth he shows as an individual defender; there’s no reason for Waiters to be bad on that end.

What’s actually “nonsense,” then, it Waiters’ contention that Beal’s belief merits that description. We hope Waiters improves enough for it to become a legitimate question between the Cleveland and Washington backcourts, though. The league needs a new Eastern Conference rivalry, and already has the makings of one with James wearing wine and gold and Paul Pierce donning blue and red. Real tension on the perimeter would only add fuel to the fire.

What do you think of Waiters’ comment?

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