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Can Cleveland Cavaliers G Dion Waiters Actually Win Rookie of the Year?

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Can Cleveland Cavaliers G Dion Waiters Actually Win Rookie of the Year?
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Being a high draft pick on the Cleveland Cavaliers means living up to a very high standard.

Kyrie Irving and LeBron James had some of the better rookie seasons in recent memory when both won the NBA's top freshman award in 2012 and 2004, respectively.

This year, the pressure falls on Dion Waiters, the Cavs' fourth overall pick out of Syracuse University.

Unlike Irving and James, however, Waiters comes in from a situation where he wasn't heralded as a star.

In fact, it's now almost common knowledge that Waiters came off the bench for the Orange, averaging just 12.6 points and 2.5 assists per game.

Despite these stats, the Cavs saw something they liked in Waiters.

The 6'4" guard played with no fear and was able to split double-teams and get to the basket almost on command. 

The Cavs believed his skills were almost Dwyane Wade-like and preferred him over anyone in the draft not named Anthony Davis.

Now over a month into the season, Waiters is enjoying a solid rookie campaign.  As of November 30th, he was averaging 15.0 points, 2.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.3 steals in 31.9 minutes a night.

Good numbers for a rookie shooting guard, yes.  Good enough for NBA Rookie of the Year?

Not quite.

Currently, Waiters is being out-shined by another rookie guard—Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail BlazersLillard has Portland off to a respectable 6-9 start while averaging 19.1 points and 6.1 assists per game, both first among rookies.

Anthony Davis, the favorite for the award heading into the season, has played just six games due to injury but has performed well when healthy.  If he can get back to the court for the majority of the season and continue his current pace, Davis would also be ahead of Waiters.

The only other real contender for the award currently is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of the Charlotte BobcatsMKG is putting up 11.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.2 steals for the surprising 7-7 Bobcats, who have already matched their win total from last season.

If Waiters wants to make a surge for Rookie of the Year, the time is now.

With Kyrie Irving out with an injury to his non-shooting hand, Waiters has seen an increase in minutes and has been asked to handle the ball more often.

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This expansion of his role has been met with mixed results.

While Waiters' scoring numbers have gone up (17.6 points last five games), the efficiency at which he's been scoring has not.

In 15 games this season, Waiters has shot better than 50 percent in a game exactly three times.  Eight times his shooting has been worse than 40 percent and three games Waiters has shot under 30 percent.

For a player whose main responsibility is to score, these are alarming numbers.

Waiters certainly isn't the leader for the top rookie award, but he isn't out of the race by any means, either.

If Waiters can increase his scoring efficiency and help the Cavs (3-12) win more often in the process, we could very well see Cleveland take home the third Rookie of the Year Award in under a decade.

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