Dion Waiters is guaranteed to surprise in 2013-14 by improving his overall production significantly for the Cleveland Cavaliers. In response to Mike Brown's coaching style, along with the acquisition of Jarrett Jack and a year of experience alongside Kyrie Irving, Waiters is now in the best position possible to succeed.
Brown has returned to Cleveland with a willingness and desire to deliver a message of accountability and consistency that the second-year guard will need to fully embrace in order to maximize his ability. Waiters, meanwhile, has been receptive to that message and is working to further develop by incorporating the principles that Brown has arrived to teach.
To reinforce that message of consistent effort on the defensive end, along with a mental focus offensively that will inevitably lead to more efficient production, Waiters is also equipped with the support of NBA veteran Jarrett Jack. Beyond simply elevating the competition in practice and pushing Waiters for minutes during games, Jack will also be able to offer guidance and advice on how to succeed in this league from the guard position.
Waiters' explosive skill set and athleticism will also be highlighted by an improved level of on-court chemistry with teammate Kyrie Irving. Alongside Irving, Waiters could help establish Cleveland's starting guards as one of the best young backcourts in the NBA this season, while also establishing himself as a future All-Star.
Mike Brown Is the Best Possible Coach for Dion Waiters
Mike Brown isn't walking on eggshells this time around in Cleveland. He has returned as an educator and leader prepared to move the Cavaliers' organization forward, and he isn't concerned about feelings getting hurt or egos being bruised along the way.
After finishing 2-for-7 from the floor for five points to go along with multiple lapses defensively, Brown told the media that Waiters knows how good he can be as a player but "might not realize how hard he'll have to work to get there."
In response to those comments from his coach, Waiters answered questions later by demonstrating a genuine willingness to learn.
Waiters on Mike Brown: "He's tough on me but he's making me better. He calls me over, starts talking to me, I love the way he coaches me"— Brendan Bowers (@BowersCLE) October 16, 2013
"I love the way he coaches me," Waiters said, while adding that he appreciates the times Brown has pulled him from games for a teachable moment before sending him back onto the floor.
This coaching style may have the tendency to grate on NBA players who are not interested in improving, but Waiters has embraced the approach and message. The sky will be the proverbial limit under Brown for Waiters at both ends of the floor as a result.
Jarrett Jack's Veteran Presence Will Support Development
The Cavaliers have replaced a collection of backup guards from a year ago that included Donald Sloan, Jeremy Pargo and Daniel Gibson, among others, with a successful and proven NBA veteran in Jarrett Jack.
Jack is not only capable of producing at a high level, but is also equipped with the leadership, guidance and respect necessary to help support the development of Cleveland's backcourt.
Last season, as a member of the Golden State Warriors, Jack helped push Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson from being a talented young backcourt to one of the top guard combinations in the league. He could have a similar effect this year for the Cavaliers while even making more of an individual impact on Waiters specifically.
Jack's consistent effort and professional approach will provide a walking example of the accountability that Coach Brown is asking for from Waiters. His on-court ability will also push the Cavs' second-year guard for playing time throughout the season if his consistency, focus and effort should ever slip.
Building on Momentum from Second Half of Rookie Season
The inefficient manner in which Dion Waiters began his NBA career has, in many ways, overshadowed the improvements he went on to make as a rookie. This season, he has an opportunity to build on that momentum while taking another step forward in terms of his scoring efficiency specifically.
During 23 combined games in the months of November and December, Waiters posted a monthly field-goal percentage of 36.9 and 34.2 percent, respectively. As illustrated on the chart above, however, Waiters went on to shoot at least 41.9 percent or better during each of the four months to follow.
Highlighted by a rookie-of-the-month performance in February, Waiters provided enough of a sample size to demonstrate what he is capable of when completely invested from a mental standpoint.
He also provided enough data to reasonably suggest that Waiters' post-All-Star break numbers of 16.1 points on 45.8 percent shooting, according to ESPN.com, are more indicative of future production than the 14.2 on 39.6 he shot before the break.
Improved Chemistry In Backcourt with Kyrie Irving
By attacking the basket with a willingness to find open shots for Irving, like he did on this preseason play against the Orlando Magic, Waiters will make the Cavaliers' tandem extremely difficult to defend.
While supporting Irving's leadership in the scoring column by averaging between 16-18 points-per-game himself on 45 percent shooting or better, Waiters could also remove the label of "talented young player" and begin to establish himself as an All-Star of the future.
For Waiters to surprise people by taking that step, however, it will begin with a genuine willingness to approach each practice and game with the consistent effort on defense and offense required by Mike Brown.
From there, the talent surrounding him in Cleveland that begins with Irving will provide Waiters an opportunity to take his game as far as he's willing to push it.