Dion Waiters: Projecting Syracuse Orange Star's Skills as an NBA Player

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistMay 15, 2012

Dion Waiters: Projecting Syracuse Orange Star's Skills as an NBA Player

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    Syracuse Orange star Dion Waiters hopes his outstanding sophomore season translates into NBA success, and he anticipates being selected in the first round of the 2012 NBA draft.

    The 6'4" guard from Philadelphia emerged as a physically gifted prospect who excelled in the Big East this year. But can he excel at the next level?

    Waiters can score in a variety of ways, play stingy defense and run the floor. But there are some holes in his game, too.

    How will his talent and his tendencies transfer to the NBA? Here is a projection of Waiters' skills as a pro.

Pro: Physicality

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    When he was assertive, Dion Waiters had the ability to overpower inferior college guards with his solid frame and explosiveness.

    This physicality will serve him well in the NBA, where everyone is bigger, faster and stronger.

    Waiters has shown that he can fight through contact and finish at the rim, a desirable trait in any combo guard. Many prospects these days aren't physically ready for the league, so scouts love his sturdiness.

    His strength will aid him not only on offense, but on defense when he's forced to guard shooting guards or even small forwards.

Con: Decision-Making

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    When it comes to ball-handling and creating offense, Dion Waiters is an above-average player who will be effective at both guard spots in the NBA.

    But he needs to improve his decision-making.

    Sometimes, he seems to lack the acute awareness needed to diagnose the timing and situation of games. Waiters recurrently hoisted ill-advised shots and forced jump-passes throughout the season.

    He's still just 20 years old, so he'll gradually improve as he learns and grows as a player.

    For now, he's somewhat of a liability as a floor general.

Pro: Perimeter Defense

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    The top of Syracuse's zone defense was a tough nut to crack last year, and Dion Waiters was a big reason for its success.

    He has all of the tools necessary to be a formidable on-ball defender in the NBA. He's got great quickness, strength and instincts.

    Waiters led the Orange in steals in 2011-12 with nearly two per game, as he created all sorts of havoc at the top of their defense.

    Man-to-man rotations and weak-side defense will be a learning experience for him. But Waiters will come in handy in the NBA, because he'll be able to guard both point guards and shooting guards effectively.

Con: Attitude and Body Language

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    Dion Waiters is nowhere close to being a locker room "cancer" or a destructive type of teammate, but he would do himself a big favor by curbing the periodic negativity and selfishness.

    After a rebellious freshman year, he became much more coachable for Jim Boeheim this season.

    NBA executives hope that he keeps maturing, because as a reserve combo guard, Waiters will need to bring positive energy to the team every second he's on the court.

Pro: Jump Shot Range and Potential

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    He's not a sniper, but Dion Waiters has the potential to be a reliable outside shooter in the NBA.

    There's plenty of elevation and range on his three-point shot, and he showed flashes of brilliance from downtown this season. His form and follow-through aren't textbook, but they get the job done.

    His 7-10 three-point shooting performance in the Big East tournament against Cincinnati turned some heads and gave scouts something to look forward to.

    Waiters will also be a decent mid-range shooter as a pro because he can stop on a dime and elevate for a high-percentage shot.

Con: Jump Shot Inconsistency

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    Despite his outside shooting potential, the current reality is that Dion Waiters is a streaky, inconsistent shooter.

    Both his spot-up jumper and his shot off the dribble need more consistency and more balance.

    Waiters shot 36 percent from behind the arc in 2011-12. That's a decent mark at the college level, but he's not in college anymore, nor will he have the college three-point line.

    He won't see a ton of playing time if he can't knock down 40 percent of his triples from the NBA line.

Pro: Athleticism

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    Dion Waiters wouldn't be the offensive threat or the defensive presence that he is without his exceptional athleticism.

    He will bring speed, agility and an explosive vertical to the professional ranks.

    His athleticism is what gives him the opportunity to be a combo guard as a pro. Waiters' body control and quickness help him make those spin moves and acrobatic plays in the lane.

    Sure, NBA success is much more than speed, power and hops, but without them, it's difficult to survive.

    Fortunately, Waiters has ample quickness and bounce to compete at the next level. 

Overall Outlook

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    He's not the complete package as a true point guard or lethal outside shooter, but Dion Waiters is a promising young talent who could be a productive role player in the NBA.

    He'll be counted on to come off the bench, facilitate and score while providing energy on defense.

    Waiters' point guard skills need refinement, and his outside jumper requires more consistency, but his playmaking skills, physicality and intensity on both ends of the court make him a desirable prospect.

    Draft Projection: First round, 22nd pick

    Rookie Projection: 7.5 points, 2.5 assists and 0.8 steals per game

    Career Projection: 9.5 points, 3.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game

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