As the Cleveland Cavaliers look to begin the second half of their 2012-13 season, it's safe to say a lot of things could stand to change.
Their overall team defense is 25th in the league, allowing 101.3 points per game. They block less than a shot per 12 minutes of game play, 29th in the NBA, and are 25th in the league in overall assists per game as well.
When you're 16-37, these things happen.
It hasn't been all bad for the Cavs, however.
A few mini three-game win streaks here and there coupled with an improved offense (14th in the league at 97.0 points per game) makes them quite enjoyable to watch, despite their poor record.
While the defense does need to improve, there is still one more major change I'd like to see the Cavaliers make.
The Cavs should move Dion Waiters into their sixth man role for the rest of the season.
While he's spent 36 out of his 45 games as the team's starting shooting guard, a move back to the bench would be best for all parties involved.
For example, let's take a look at his stats when in and out of the starting lineup, per 48 minutes of play.
When the Cavs use Waiters off the bench, he's able to take advantage of playing against a second-string defense, and therefore has proven to be a much improved scorer.
As a sixth man he's scoring 30.9 points per 48 minutes. For comparison, Kyrie Irving averages 31.9 points over the same amount of time.
Waiters' shooting is also much better across the board, with dramatic increases in his field goal, three-point and free throw percentages.
Despite being asked to handle the ball more as part of the second unit, Waiters also averages fewer turnovers per game. The only stat that we see a decrease in is assists, which makes sense when you consider he's not playing next to Kyrie Irving as much.
Speaking of Irving and Waiters, having Dion come off the bench spreads the Cavs two best scorers across likely the entire length of the game. No one else on the team can create their own shots like Irving and Waiters can. This move would ensure Cleveland always has someone on the floor that can create offense for themselves or others.
What change would this make to the starting lineup?
When Waiters spent his nine games coming off the bench, we saw C.J. Miles play his best basketball as part of the starting lineup.
Miles is incredibly inconsistent, but was solid as a starter averaging 15.2 points per game while shooting 37.4 percent from three-point range.
Off the bench, these numbers drop to 9.1 points on 36.7 percent shooting.
Having a good spot-up shooter next to an offensive threat like Kyrie Irving is a nightmare for defenses, and a player like Miles or Wayne Ellington more than fit the bill.
Consider the following:
According to 82games.com, the Cavaliers top five-man floor unit is the combination of Irving, Miles, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller. These five combine for a winning percentage of 58.3 percent, up from their overall winning percentage of 30.2 percent.
Replace Miles with Waiters, who is the consensus better overall player, and the five-man floor unit winning percentage actually drops from 58.3 to 40.9 percent.
This is because even though Waiters is the better player, his style of play fits in better as a sixth man and not next to another offensive creator like Irving.
For those that are concerned that a move to the bench would hinder Waiters' career development, I say look at the career of James Harden.
Harden is who I automatically think of when watching Waiters and his skill set on the court. The current Houston Rockets star is enjoying a career year with averages of 26.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game.
A starter for the first time, Harden spent his first three seasons as the sixth man with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He provided the scoring balance the team needed, having already inserted Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in the starting lineup.
Last season with OKC, Harden still averaged over 31 minutes per game coming off the bench and helped lead the Thunder to the NBA Finals.
The Cavs would be wise to use Waiters in much the same way.
While I'm not endorsing Waiters as a sixth man for the rest of his Cavaliers career, due to the lack of scoring the Cavs have coming off their bench, such a move would be beneficial for the team.
Given a year or two to add additional scoring throughout the rotation and more training camps to learn to work their games together, Waiters could very well return to the starting unit next to Irving to form a two-headed scoring monster.
For now, Waiters ideal role has to be as the sixth man.
The team performs better with him off the bench and Waiters' numbers and efficiency are much improved in a sixth man role.
The Cavs should make the move now, and stick with it for the rest of the second half if they wish to improve the team's overall performance moving forward.
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