NBA Draft 2012: Why the Toronto Raptors Need Dion Waiters

Justin BoninAnalyst IJune 4, 2012

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 24:  Dion Waiters #3 of the Syracuse Orange goes to the hoop against Sam Thompson #12 and Deshaun Thomas #1 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball East Regional Final at TD Garden on March 24, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

I’ve already stirred up quite a bit of commotion with the notion that Dion Waiters could be somewhat of a secret potion for the Toronto Raptors.  Some agree with it, but some flat out think I’m off my rocker.  Others agree, but want to trade down and take him later, not in the top 10 and not with the eighth overall pick.

Well, here’s the thing: After the draft combine, when other teams get a good look at how talented this guy really is, he’s not going to be around come the 14th pick.  Chad Ford has him listed at eighth in his top 100 prospects, and in his most recent mock draft he has Waiters going eighth to the Raptors.  Trust me, his stock is only going to improve, so for those of you who say it’s too early, think again.

Although I will admit it is still kind of early, I have nonetheless narrowed it down to four players that I want the Raptors to take with the eighth overall pick, in the following order: Harrison Barnes, Waiters, Damian Lillard, Perry Jones III.  I’m confident Barnes will be gone before the Raptors get to him so I’m here today advocating plan B: Waiters.  Here are three reasons why we need him.

Waiters is by far the biggest sleeper in this year’s draft.  I’ve already gone on record saying that he will be in the running for Rookie of the Year, and I stand by that.  

As I’ve said before, he struggled both on and off the court in his first year at Syracuse, but he bounced back in his second year, showing improved play and maturity as he embraced his role as sixth man and thrived.  For a player as young as he is—only 20 years old—the fact that he was able to get through his first season and resurrect his college career by accepting the sixth man role tells me a lot about his maturity and character.   

He’s a hard-working kid and he can come in and make an immediate impact on this team, both at SG and possibly at PG.  I see him starting out as a sixth man for the Raptors before blossoming into a backcourt leader by his second or third season, be it as the starting SG or the successor to Jose Calderon.  

On offense, Waiters can do it all and that’s with minimal experience at the college level, as he struggled for minutes his first year and came off the bench in his second.  So in that regard, the fact that Ford has him at eighth after being a reserve for the Orange says a lot about his talent.

He attacks the rim with a vengeance, something the Raptors desperately need.  But it doesn’t stop there.  He already has a good jumper, with range and room to improve. 

Put those two together, and throw in the fact that he can already create his own shot, and we’ve got the makings of a player who will have no problem taking some of the offensive burden off of Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan.   

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, his defense has drawn some question marks.  However, he’s convinced he can play defense at the next level and we’ll find out more on that at the combine.  Nevertheless, he’s strong and athletic (despite only being a 6'4" SG), and because of that his defense is improving and I think he has the potential to improve further. 

I’ve mentioned this before, so if you’ve read either of my Raptors Big Boards you’ve already heard it, but I think it deserves repeating.  I touched on his maturity and mental toughness earlier, but I have more to say about that.

After emerging from a tumultuous freshman year in which he feuded with coach Jim Boeheim and endured the loss of three cousins and a best friend, he was able to thrive in a reduced role.  This tells me he’s willing to put the team first, and I have no doubt he has the potential to be a star for the Raptors and a team leader for this young squad.   


Final Thoughts

There’s a good chance you’re still not sold on Waiters, and that’s cool.  I really have no tangible proof at the moment since the only source I currently have is Ford’s notes from a workout with Waiters. 

Still, I’m telling you now, when the draft combine rolls around, keep an eye on this kid.  He’s going to give Jeremy Lamb and Terrence Ross a run for their money and prove he’s in the same class as Bradley Beal as far as shooting guards go in this year’s draft.