Dion Waiters’ unique opportunity to contend for Rookie of the Year

Dion Waiters has a unique opportunity to contend for Rookie of the Year this season. The Cavaliers return a starting unit that has approximately 22 shot attempts per game currently available.

I expect Waiters to start from opening night on and take the majority of those shots. He will replace Anthony Parker at shooting guard and Tristan Thompson will replace Antawn Jamison.

Together, as starters last season, Jamison averaged 16 field goal attempts per game and Parker averaged 6. Byron Scott needs somebody to take those shots. Dion Waiters very much enjoys shooting. See where I’m going with this?

It’s reasonable to assume that D-Waiters could average 14 field goal attempts per game this year. That would still leave 8 additional shot attempts left over from Antawn and AP’s 22 to be distributed throughout this season’s starting five. Kyrie Irving attempted 14.6 shots per game last year to lead all rookies in that category. Kobe Bryant led the NBA last season with 23 attempts per game. Kevin Durant was next at 19.7.

So say Kyrie increases his shot attempts per game by 4. He’s then at 18.6 field goal attempts per game this season, with Waiters potentially shooting 14 times. That still leaves four more shots available for three players. Let’s call those three players, or three other opening night starters, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao. 

Tristan Thompson averaged 8.2 points per game last season on 7.4 attempts per night. The 21st ranked power forward in the NBA last year in terms of overall field goal percentage was Brandon Bass. In 59 games Bass averaged 12.5 points on 47.9 percent shooting from the field. Tristan shot 43.9 percent last season.

If Thompson improves his field goal percentage to 48 percent, his free throw numbers stay exactly the same as they were this past season, and he only took one more shot per game (8.4) he’d average just over 10 points per night in 2012-13. That number, along with the double figure rebounds, being the stated goal by Byron Scott and company for Tristan heading into this season.

Even with all that said, let’s just say that Thompson attempts 2 more shots per game this season. That’s 4 more for Kyrie + 2 more for Tristan + 14 shots for Dion Waiters, still leaving two of the vacated Jamison and Parker shots potentially available. 

You can either give both to Alonzo Gee, split that number between he and Anderson Vareajo, or throw two away because Varejao’s nine attempts per game only lasted for 38 percent of the season and that should probably be accounted for somewhere in this equation. Conversely, you can also argue that the Cavaliers will attempt more shots as a starting unit overall this season because Kyrie Irving and their offense will be better. But I’ll just stay at 20 for now. 

I don’t see Gee or Andy shooting more than the nine times per game each averaged last year. Which is all why I’m pretty certain that Dion Waiters will average 14 field goal attempts per game starting on opening night.

Fourteen shots behind a coach in Byron Scott who is arguably the number one overall proponent in the world of how awesome Dion Waiters could be as an NBA basketball player outside of Waiters himself. And a good portion of those 14 shots, by which I would say half, WIDE OPEN for the first 25 games at least because teams will be doubling Irving in the backcourt and letting Waiters try and beat them. 

Fourteen shots for a guy in Dion Waiters who thororoughly enjoys scoring the basketball.

Rookies don’t usually get that many shots to open their career. Typically you earn your way to a number like 14 shots per game in the NBA. Kyrie was an exception last season. Brandon Knight was second with respect to rookies attempting 11.7 shots per game last year. After that, only MarShon Brooks (11.4), Klay Thompson (10.9) and Kemba Walker (11.6) averaged more than 10. 

Which is why Dion Waiters is in a unique situation.

The Cavaliers haven’t employed a good wing – SG or SF – since LeBron James left. They had a hard time finding people to shoot – not score, shoot – in each of the last two seasons. Twenty-two of those most recent shot attempts have since left. They need to find out what they have in D-Waiters this season. They also need somebody not named Kyrie Irving to shoot before the shot clock expires. Why not start Dion, give him the greenest green light any rookie has ever seen, and accomplish both goals at the same time.

For the entire 82 game season. No matter how it goes. Just let Waiters keep firing.  

I personally think he’ll ball out. I like the guy’s attitude. He is relatively positive that he’s as good a player as anyone in the world, but that’s how he needs to be. He also needs to be in shape, and he is now. He will be a physically imposing wing, and should be able to create for others while also crashing the boards. In doing so, five rebounds and 3.5 assists aren’t too much to expect.

If he does those two things, and matches Klay Thompson’s field goal percentage last season of 44 percent (18th overall amongst rookies last season and 4th best amongst guards) he would average 6.2 made field goals per game. Accounting for three pointers and free throws, Waiters would be in 16-17 point per game territory. 

Which brings me to my prediction for Dion Waiters’ final stat line this season: 16.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. My confidence level in this predicition inspired the use of bold font.

Depending on what other rookies do, numbers good enough to win ROY.

Image: Cavs.com 

Brendan Bowers

About Brendan Bowers

I am the founding editor of StepienRules.com. I am also a content strategist and social media manager with Electronic Merchant Systems in Cleveland. My work has been published in SLAM Magazine, KICKS Magazine, The Locker Room Magazine, Cleveland.com, BleacherReport.com, InsideFacebook.com and elsewhere. I've also written a lot of articles that have been published here.