January 26, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dion Waiters (3) tries to make a basket as Toronto Raptors center-forward Amir Johnson (15) defends at the Air Canada Centre. Cleveland defeated Toronto 99-98. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Weekly Roundtable: Waiters starting, Cleveland's bench and Boston's chances

Welcome to the thirtieth installment of Right Down Euclid’s “Weekly Roundtable.” This Friday Jerry Bulone and Zak Kolesar sit down and discuss the latest trending topics concerning your Cleveland Cavaliers and the NBA. The combination of rotating RDE duos answer three questions regarding the hometown Wine and Gold and two questions surrounding the league.

Today the discussion revolves around the recent play of Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson’s impact on the team, the rising of the bench, Boston’s run without Rajon Rondo and the most significant injury in the NBA.

Cavaliers Corner

First Question: What are your thoughts on the play of Dion Waiters as of late?

Jerry Bulone: Well I think it is a great sign that Waiters has followed up his worst month as a pro (December) by improving in almost every category. He shot 42 percent from the field, and almost 83 percent from the free throw line. He was also getting to the line much more last month, to the tune of 4.1 attempts a game. That being said, he is still pretty inconsistent. He had 33 points in 29 minutes on Jan 14. against the Sacramento Kings, then followed that up with five points on 1-of-9 shooting against the Portland Trail Blazers. In short, he needs to learn how to have an impact on the game when his shot is not falling. That will separate him from just being another Ricky Davis.

Zak Kolesar: With the recent success that the Cavs have had implementing Waiters back into the starting lineup, I am very pleased with what I have seen from the rookie shooting guard. In pairing up with Kyrie Irving, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller, that starting core has gone 8-6 this season. C.J. Miles was a great plug-in player to have when Waiters was struggling with injuries and his shot, but this seems to be the lineup that is getting the job done on a constant basis. I love the thought of Waiters being that high-energy player off the bench, but Marreese Speights and Wayne Ellington have shortened the scoring gap between the starters and the reserves. Waiters’ services are no longer needed on the bench, and his unselfish play in 2013 has him ready to contribute as a starter once again.

Second Question: Has Tristan Thompson just been a replacement of J.J. Hickson this far in his career?

JB: Absolutely not! I love Tristan. I cannot believe his improvement. He has gone on a tear since (Anderson) Varejao has been injured. Just look at last month – he shot almost 53 percent (from the field) and averaged 15.1 points and 10.9 rebounds. Even more than that, it is his consistency that is most refreshing (and separates him from Hickson). In his last 23 games, he has had 14 double-doubles, and just missed five others by one rebound. Not to mention he is only 21 years old. His recent improvement is a great sign for the young Cavaliers.

ZK: In the season after LeBron James left, Hickson averaged 13.8 points and 8.7 rebounds. At this point, he was just in his third season with the Cavs and in the NBA altogether. Despite what success Hickson has achieved in his time with the Trail Blazers, Thompson has performed way beyond the level of impact that Hickson has or ever had on the court. The left hook is becoming a staple in his shot arsenal, his efforts on the offensive boards cannot be replaced and he’s turning into one of the leaders on a team full of young and budding players. The latter is what separates what Thompson has done in less than two seasons from what Hickson did for Cleveland.

Third Question: Will the Cavaliers bench keep it up?

JB: They can if Spreights and Ellington stay healthy and on the roster. Not only are they an upgrade from what the Cavaliers had, but it also ensures that Luke Walton and Omri Casspi do not see time on the court. I personally do not think the Cavaliers are done making moves yet, so this feels like an incomplete answer.

ZK: As long as Speights keeps coming in with less than five minutes to go in the first quarters, this bench will continue to thrive. The key has been giving their main reserve contributors action off the bench earlier in the game so that they can be in full-on attack mode once the fourth quarter arrives. I don’t believe that Cleveland will make any moves that adds impactful players to their bench before the trade deadline, but I do believe that Speights and Ellington will continue to provide a nice base for the starters.

NBA Roundup

Fourth Question: The Celtics are 6-0 without Rondo; how long will this keep up?

JB: Not long. I have seen this movie before, and I know how it ends. A team loses a star player, goes on a little run, but in the end the loss eventually catches up with them. Rondo was such a huge loss, as he was one of the best overall point guards in the game. Not to mention, he was also the youngest star on that team. There is just no way they can keep replacing his combination of skill, energy and defense. Here’s a prediction—The Cavaliers will have a better record over the last 30 games than the Celtics.

ZK: Even though I don’t think Cleveland will finish with a better record than Boston over the final 30 games, I do think that whatever they’re running on now will quickly disappear in the coming weeks. Don’t forget that Jared Sullinger is out for the season as well, and he was a rising force for the Celtics on the boards; a category that they rank 29th in the league in. The Celtics have the sixth best shooting percentage in the NBA, so that is also a big reason why they rank so low in the rebounding category, but losing both a role player and an All-Star within one week will have this team reeling anytime now.

Fifth Question: Which recent injury most hurts their team?

JB: I have to go with the Minnesota Timberwolves. I know it is nothing particularly recent, but losing Kevin Love and not having Ricky Rubio healthy until mid-January has absolutely killed this team. With Love, Pekovic, AK 47 and a healthy Rubio, this team could have been one of the best in the West. However, due to injuries, they could not sustain their hot start, and now stand 10 games under .500 and seven games behind the eighth seed. Essentially it will be yet another lost season in Minnesota. This could mean, however, that Derrick Williams could be wearing Wine and Gold before the season is over.

ZK: Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are both listed as doubtful for San Antonio’s Friday night game against the Detroit Pistons, and it’s uncertain when the two long-time veterans will return. With both players high up there in age, 36 and 35 respectively, this could have a lingering effect for the Spurs. I’m not taking anything away from what San Antonio has been able to do this season and overall, but injuries could pile up fast for the consistent Spurs. The castle could finally crumble with permanent changes in the lineup due to injuries.

Make sure to check back next week to see what Jerry Bulone and Chris Manning have to debate at the “Weekly Roundtable.”

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Tags: Cleveland Cavaliers Dion Waiters Marreese Speights Rajon Rondo Tristan Thompson

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