Before the Cavaliers game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night, the Wine and Gold had the highest scoring backcourt on their team. They also boast one of the youngest backcourts in the Association with one of the highest ceilings. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft and the No. 4 pick the following year now make up one of the most talked about tandems in the league. Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, respectively, are taking the NBA by storm even though they have only played seven games together.
Through those seven games Irving is averaging 20 points, while Dion is putting up 15.4 points per night. Cavalier fans weren’t expecting this much offensive production out of the former Syracuse sixth man, especially with the performance that he had throughout Summer League and the preseason. But like he was in college, Waiters is the type of player that lives for the moment. He strives to play in big time situations, and there is no platform bigger than the NBA. When talking about the biggest shot in the NBA, the one that results in the most points, Waiters is shooting 53.1 percent from beyond the arc.
Irving is a great compliment to what Waiters had been able to do from downtown so far this season. Irving, who shot the ball from beyond the arc less than four times per game last season, is now putting on a newfound confidence when it comes to the long ball. Irving completed 39.9 percent of his three-point attempts last season, but he now sits at 45.2 percent. Regarding the outside shooting habits of Waiters and Irving, Waiters is putting on the type of swagger that a veteran such as Ray Allen or O.J. Mayo might showcase and Irving is doing the best he can to create points for the Cavaliers. Right now Waiters is ranked 12th in the NBA in three-point percentage and is ranked 25th, right in front of teammate Daniel Gibson, in three pointers attempted.
Before the game against Oklahoma City, Irving had ranked fourth in the NBA in scoring behind Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant and James Harden with Waiters coming in at 30th. The Cavaliers duo may be able to claim the crown as best offensive backcourt when the 2012-13 season is over, but there are many styles of their play that may prevent them from being deemed one of the league’s best.
Irving had a turnover problem last season, and it has not gone away with the start of a new season. For someone who touches the ball on every play, it’s hard for a point guard such as Irving to not cough up the ball from time to time. The former Duke Blue Devil has averaged 6.3 assists so far this season, but has coughed up the ball 4.1 times over the first seven games. During a very winnable game against the Phoenix Suns Irving was accountable for seven turnovers. He has registered an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.53 this season, while most proficient passers in the NBA clock in at around a ratio of 3.0. That needs to improve if the backcourt combo ever wants to reach champion status.
On Waiters’ side of things, he needs to re-up his defense in order for the duo to improve game after game. In his two-year career at Syracuse Dion averaged 1.5 steals, but is just averaging less than one steal even though he started off the season with a three-steal effort. Irving has a lot of flaws in his defensive game as well, but it’s more important that Dion makes sure he crafts his game due to the position the Cavaliers want him to play.
The Cavaliers backcourt is surprising people so far in this young season, but there is still a lot of work to do. Dion could make a push for Rookie of the Year if he keeps up the same production. There are a lot of problems to address on this young Cleveland team, but this seems to be the brightest spot on another season that may be lost to the lottery.