Should the second-year shooting guard already be on the trade block?
Clearly, Waiters is a special talent. He averaged 15.9 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game this season, primarily as the team's sixth man.
While Waiters stepped up his play toward the end of the year, questions still remain about his fit next to fellow ball-dominant guard Kyrie Irving. The general manager who drafted Waiters fourth overall in 2012, Chris Grant, has since been fired. There were even rumors earlier in the year that Waiters wanted out of Cleveland, although he denied such reports.
Owner Dan Gilbert is reportedly "clearly agitated after a disappointing season" and is "not a fan of the Cavs' roster as currently constructed" says Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio.
If the Cavaliers really do plan on shaking up the roster this summer, should Waiters stay or go?
Cavs Already Shopped Waiters?
To be clear, this isn't the first time Waiters' name has popped up in trade conversations.
After a rookie campaign that saw him score 14.7 points per game despite coming into the season out of shape, Waiters was already being dangled in trade packages.
"Last summer, the Cavs offered the No. 1 pick, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters for Love and the Wolves weren't interested. Unfortunately for the Cavs, their best assets are guards, and the Wolves don't need guards."
Now almost a year later, would Cleveland still offer Waiters up in the same deal? His value has increased significantly, as has the level of respect from his teammates and coaches.
New Appreciation for Waiters
While he's at times been moody and stubborn and taken a few (OK, many) questionable shots in his two years in Cleveland, Waiters has shown a great deal of maturity as of late.
Toward the end of the regular season, The Plain Dealer's Boyer had this to say about Waiters and his recent change.
In another somewhat ironic indication of his maturity, Waiters has recently been playing the peacemaker when an opponent, like Phoenix's Channing Frye, takes exception to a teammate, often pesky rookie Matthew Dellavedova, or when Brown gets upset with the officials, as he did in the recent game against San Antonio. Last year, more often that not, it was Waiters who needed to be calmed down.
Thanks to his recent maturation, other Cavaliers players seem to truly enjoy having Waiters around, says Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio:
One source close to the team said the players have a newfound respect for Dion Waiters. The second-year shooting guard was at the center of some drama (real and imagined) earlier this season. But the Cavs are beginning to feel Waiters "is a great teammate," as he's earned respect via "his effort and maturing," the source said.
While that may not prevent a trade of Waiters from happening, it should at least drive up the asking price for him quite a bit.
Recent Strong Play
Although he had a productive first half of the season (14.3 points, 2.7 assists before the All-Star break), Waiters really stepped up his game toward the end of the year.
When Irving was injured in a March 16 game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Waiters was inserted into the starting lineup. Now given the opportunity to be the focal point of the offense, Waiters responded in a big way. He went for 17 points and 11 assists against the Miami Heat before dropping 30 points two days later while playing the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In 14 March games, Waiters upped his averages to 19.3 points on 44.3 percent shooting from the field and 33.3 percent from deep. During seven games in April, these numbers increased again to 20.3 points on 48.2 percent from the field and 46.7 percent shooting on three-pointers.
Even though he spent the majority of his time as a reserve, Waiters seemed to perform quite well as the starting shooting guard. In 24 games as a starter, Waiters put up 18.3 points and 3.5 assists in 33.2 minutes of play. His average of 19.3 points per 36 minutes as a NBA sophomore is actually ahead of James Harden's 16.4 in the same amount of time. The shooting numbers (43.3 percent for Waiters, 43.6 for Harden) are eerily similar, as are the pair's assist numbers (3.0 to 2.9, per 36 minutes).
While he may have been a good scorer early in the season, Waiters has now begun to transform into a great one.
To Shop or Not to Shop?
Right now, the Cavaliers should not be dangling Waiters in anything but an absolute blockbuster trade.
He's made too many steps in the right direction for Cleveland to simply pawn him off now. While maturity issues plagued him throughout the majority of his first two years, Waiters is now 22 and a father, and he seems to be getting adjusted to NBA life.
Waiters brings a toughness to the Cavs that they desperately need. Too many times last season Cleveland just didn't come up with the necessary effort it needed to win, a direct effect of the team's lack of mental toughness. Waiters can help solve problems like this by continuing to set the tone with his physical, bullish offensive play.
While the team may have already tried to trade him in the past, the Cavs should now put all deals involving Waiters on hold. Unless an opportunity to add a superstar via trade comes along, the Cavaliers should not shop Waiters this summer.
All stats via basketball-reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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