Dion Waiters wishes he would have gotten off to a better start in his first three Summer League games in Las Vegas, but he shouldn’t use that as one of his three wishes for the magic genie.
Waiters is averaging 14.0 points – less than his rookie regular season average – on 29.5 percent shooting from the field, which is also less than last year’s regular season average. In Las Vegas, he is averaging the third-most shot attempts per game, only behind Ben McLemore and John Jenkins. Just think if we had taken McLemore — we would have two of the worst shooters in Summer League. McLemore has gotten off to a similar start as Waiters, averaging 12.5 points on 22.9 percent shooting from the field. Jenkins has had more success on his shot attempts, averaging nearly 20 per game.
Great players such as Josh Akognon, Stephon Hannah, Elijah Millsap, Robbie Hummel and former Cavaliers great Luke Harangody are all averaging more points than Waiters.
Waiters – or Cleveland fans – shouldn’t get discouraged, though. He did the same thing last year and gave a reason for Cavs fans to get frantic. He arrived to Las Vegas overweight last summer and averaged 12.3 points, shooting 30 percent from the field. But his rookie summer league performance was quickly erased from fans’ minds when he came out in his regular-season debut against the Washington Wizards and scored 17 in a team victory.
The Summer League stats Waiters is putting up can be a little frustrating, but more than half of the guys he is playing against now he won’t see when the regular season begins; so numbers can be deceiving. For instance, Austin Rivers put up one of the worst statistical rookie seasons anyone has ever put up; even Adam Morrison is laughing at Rivers’ rookie numbers. Now this summer, he is averaging 17.3 points in his three games for the Pelicans.
As Waiters continues to find his groove in Las Vegas, keep in mind he’s playing against a group of guys who will be bagging groceries in a couple weeks. It takes any good player, in any good sport, to get into a groove. What should be more concerning is his defense. He came into the league after his two years at Syracuse playing in Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone defense, and last year he played under Byron Scott, and defense was on the back of his mind.
Tyler Zeller has been a bit of a surprise in the three games, averaging nearly a double-double. He will have a different role on the team this year. Last year he started at center by default after Anderson Varejao suffered a season-ending injury. This season he will compete against Varejao and newly-acquired Andrew Bynum and will have to earn every minute of playing time if he wants to be on the court.
Jermaine Taylor, the fourth-year guard out of the University of Central Florida, has been trying to prove he deserves a spot in the league after not playing in the NBA last season. His 11 points per game hasn’t amazed anyone, but his athleticism has.
The team is still looking to fill the final roster spot and they would like to have their 2013 second-round pick Carrick Felix fill that spot. After being drafted by the Cavs, he knows his role and wants to earn a spot on the team with his defense and energy. However, he has a long way to go and Canton seems to be in his near future.