Kyrie Irving Injury Means Dion Waiters Must Grow Up Even Faster
The news comes down from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
#Cavs Kyrie Irving out four weeks with fractured left index finger
— M.S. Boyer/J. Valade (@PDcavsinsider) November 20, 2012
Logistically, this doesn't mean much for the Cavaliers. After losing the last six games, it seems unlikely that they would come together well enough to actually make the playoffs, but their philosophy is going to have to change dramatically.
Cleveland essentially played a two-man game between Irving and Anderson Varejao with a lot of Dion Waiters sprinkled in here and there. Otherwise they get a bit of pick-and-roll action with Tyler Zeller, some cutting from Alonzo Gee or Tristan Thompson barreling around the paint uncontrollably hoping to pick up an offensive rebound and a put-back. In other words, without Irving, their offense is ugly.
The deeper we get onto the bench the uglier it gets. Both Luke Walton and Jon Leuer have played legitimate minutes for this Cavs team. C.J. Miles has shot 27 three-pointers, but made only six, yet he's somehow shooting even worse overall. Donald Sloan is one of four players to have been warned by the NBA for flopping.
Irving has a usage rate north of 30 percent, good enough for fifth in the league. Needless to say, he does a lot for the Cavs.
Now we're going to see Irving replaced over the course of the next month by the likes of Sloan, Boobie Gibson and Jeremy Pargo. That's going to be a big deal, but what's happening is going affect one guy more than any other.
Suddenly Waiters becomes the go-to guy on the Cavs offense. 10 games into the season, that should be a bit of a shock for the rookie out of Syracuse.
In the end, the next four weeks aren't going to be much different than they would have been with Irving in the lineup. The Cavs are most likely going to lose more games, sure, but it doesn't seem like they were on the verge of breaking loose and reeling off a bundle of wins.
What it does do, however, is put Waiters under the microscope to the point where the Cavs are really going to get to see what they're getting out of their highly-questioned first round pick. This is the time for Dion to sink or swim.
It's not that this is going to be the determining factor in Waiters' career, but what happens in the next month is going to be a good view into the future of Waiters, and whether or not he can be a top two option on a team.
Waiters has shown us his ability to get a hot hand and take over a game, but he did that when he had Irving as a security blanket. Now it's just Dion.
If he's able to help the Cavs win a few games, consistently score and do more than just chuck shots, I think they can take solace in the fact that they drafted a guy who is capable of making sound decisions and maturely play when the game is in his hands. If he degrades into a guy who chucks, shoots 24 shots a game and shoots 39 percent, they're going to have to re-evaluate his development.
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