Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters may be playing nice off the court, but the on-court meshing is still very much a work in progress.
The question is: How long are the Cavaliers willing to wait?
It's clear by now that Irving and Waiters are worse when they're together.
The eye test shows it. The stats show it.
Irving is averaging 23.1 points, 7.0 assists and shooting 45.8 percent from the field per 36 minutes when Waiters is out of the game. When together on the court, Irving's numbers drop to 21.1 points, 5.4 assists and 39.9 percent shooting over the same amount of time.
The Cavs know they don't play well together, which is why they sent Waiters to the bench in the first place. It worked in the beginning, as Waiters averaged 14.8 points on 43.3 percent shooting during the month of December as the team's sixth man.
Recently, though, Waiters' poor play has hurt the Cavs. He shot 0-of-4 for zero points in a five-point loss to the Dallas Mavericks on January 20. For the month of January, Waiters' stats have fallen off to 13.5 points on a putrid 35.0 percent shooting.
After an inspiring 3-2 roadtrip, the Cavaliers have returned to their losing ways, dropping two close games at home.
Something needs to change, and it very well could be a trade of Waiters, who seems to be regressing.
With he and Irving still struggling to mesh and the team falling further out of the playoff race, here are four shooting guards who represent a better fit that Cleveland could pursue.
Arron Afflalo, Orlando Magic
A veteran scorer and defender, Afflalo would bring nice stability to the shooting guard position.
Now 28, Afflalo is averaging 20.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 37.3 minutes per game. The Orlando Magic have plummeted in the Eastern Conference standings lately and have their shooting guard of the future in Victor Oladipo waiting in the wings. They're probably another two years away from making a serious playoff run and should be dangling Afflalo to the highest bidder before the February 20 trade deadline.
There's a lot to like about Afflalo. He's in his seventh professional season and has been to the playoffs five of the last six years. At 6'5" and 215 pounds, Afflalo has excellent size for the shooting guard position. He's a great defender who would help take some pressure off Kyrie Irving in the backcourt.
According to 82games.com, opposing shooting guards register just a 13.7 PER against him. Afflalo himself has a PER of 19.2 over the same 48 minutes of play. For comparison, Waiters allows a 14.7, while putting up a PER of just 14.3 himself.
Afflalo is a better fit than Waiters because of his shooting ability. While Waiters excels at getting to the basket, Afflalo prefers the mid-range jumper and three-pointer. This would work better with Irving, as he consistently draws the double-team, thus opening up shooters.
At the six main areas of the court, Afflalo is shooting better than the league average in four of them.
He's excellent at moving without the ball, coming off screens and knocking down jumpers.
Afflalo's contract is also a very reasonable $15 million over this year and next, with a player option of $7.5 million for the 2015-16 season, according to shamsports.com.
Trading for him wouldn't just be a rental. He would get the opportunity to learn and grow with Irving as his backcourt mate of the future. The Cavs should offer the expiring contracts of Earl Clark and Alonzo Gee to match up salaries, while throwing in one of their three 2015 first-round picks and go from there.
Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz
It may take a lot to get Hayward out of Utah, but Cleveland should still sniff around.
Asked to take on a larger role with the Jazz this season, Hayward has responded in a big way. He's currently putting up 17.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.9 assists while playing both shooting guard and small forward.
The former Butler star is a career 38.2 percent shooter from downtown, compared to Waiters' 33.0 percent. He's an excellent shooter who can also get to the basket when needed. Hayward is also a much better distributor than Waiters, as he averages 6.5 assists per 48 minutes, up from Waiters' 4.4.
Unlike Waiters, Hayward is at his best playing next to a good point guard. When he's on the court with Trey Burke, Hayward has an offensive rating of 104.5. When Burke sits, Hayward's O-rating drops to 94.7.
Will the Jazz look to trade Hayward? Probably not. But given that they failed to sign him to an extension before the season started means that the two parties face an uncertain future. A guy like Waiters is under team control for the next three-and-a-half seasons, minimum. It may be a long shot, but offering Waiters and a 2015 first-round pick may be enough to make the Jazz think twice about keeping Hayward.
Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings
Thought to be one of the steals of the 2013 draft, McLemore has struggled with the Kings.
A pure shooter from Kansas, McLemore was believed by some to go as high as No. 1 overall to the Cavaliers before the draft.
While he isn't as good at creating his own shot as Waiters, McLemore is a better athlete and shooter who would fit well next to Irving.
Right now, the Kings aren't giving McLemore the opportunity he needs. His playing time has gone from 28.2 minutes in December to just 19.0 minutes this month. His shot has been shaky thus far (36.1 percent), but the mechanics are silky smooth. Remember, this is the same guy whose shot was compared to that of Ray Allen's before the draft.
The Kings have given up on lottery picks in their rookie season before, so it wouldn't be a big surprise if they were willing to part with McLemore.
Cleveland could offer Waiters for him straight up and go from there.
Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
The Warriors absolutely will not trade Thompson, right?
No? OK, but it's a nice dream.
Thompson and Stephen Curry make up the best young backcourt in basketball, even though it means forcing Harrison Barnes to a sixth-man role. Chris Grant should try to sweet talk the Warriors into making Dion Waiters their new sixth man and moving Barnes back into the starting lineup with Andre Iguodala shifting over to shooting guard.
Putting a shooter like Thompson next to Irving would be a perfect fit.
A whopping 88 percent of all Thompson's shots are jumpers, which complements Irving's slashing style of play. Per 48 minutes with Thompson in the game, the Warriors score 111.1 points compared to just 92.6 with him out, per 82games.com. This difference of 18.5 points is actually more than players like Waiters (+4.0 ), Irving (+4.6) and even Kevin Durant (+4.1)
Thompson's shot chart is a thing of beauty.
What's most impressive about Thompson is his ability to consistently knock down shots from all areas of the court. He truly has no weak spots in the scouting report. Thompson is great at moving without the ball, and playing with Curry proves he can complement a star.
Would Golden State be willing to give him up? Most likely not, but they'd still be very good with a wing of Curry, Iguodala and Barnes with Waiters coming off the bench.
Cleveland could dangle Waiters, C.J. Miles and a 2015 first-round pick and see how much the W's laugh. If it's just a snicker, the Cavs should pursue.
Waiters and Irving just aren't a good fit together.
The Cavs could end up keeping both but would have to accept the fact that neither are going to reach their full potential playing alongside the other.
Or, they could move Waiters, who would probably flourish as a starting shooting guard next to a pass-first point guard. Cleveland has already done the smart thing by putting shooter C.J. Miles next to Irving, but he'll be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Acquiring a player like Afflalo, Hayward, McLemore or Thompson would be a better building block for Irving to grow with.
At 15-27, changes have to be made.
The Cavs have too much talent to be in a position like this, three games out of the playoffs in a terrible Eastern Conference.
The trade for Luol Deng was a nice first step.
Dealing Waiters for someone who better fits with Irving should be next.
All statistics via NBA.com/stats unless otherwise noted.
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