Cavs see a lot of Wade in draft pick Waiters
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP)
Byron Scott saw the similarities the first time he watched Dion Waiters play for Syracuse.
The fearlessness. The explosiveness. The solid build. The killer instinct.
''The first thing that came to my mind was Dwyane Wade,'' Scott said.
But the Cavaliers coach wanted to make sure his eyes weren't deceiving him, that there were no tricks in the tape. So he viewed another 15 or so games, dissecting every aspect of Waiters' game. It was only then that he felt content with his conclusion.
''I kept coming back to the same thought,'' Scott said. ''The kid is good.''
With Scott's blessing and insistence, the Cavaliers selected Waiters with the No. 4 pick in Thursday night's NBA draft, giving them a backcourt partner for reigning rookie of the year Kyrie Irving and another player capable of making big plays in crunch time.
The Cavs may have stunned some of their fans by taking Waiters, who rose from the Big East's best sixth man, up the draft board and became the fourth player taken in what was considered a deep draft. Despite rumors they were more interested in others, Scott said Waiters was always Cleveland's top target.
''There's only one other player we would have took,'' Scott did. ''That's the one that went No. 1.''
Waiters and North Carolina center Tyler Zeller, taken by the Cavs with the No. 17 pick after they traded three picks - No. 24 overall and two in the second round - to Dallas to move up, were introduced together on Friday at Cleveland Clinic Courts, the club's suburban training complex where the team hosted dozens of players for pre-draft workouts.
However, it was the first visit to the splendid facility for Waiters and Zeller. Cleveland's front office didn't feel the need to bring them to show their skills after doing exhaustive research on both players during their final college seasons. The Cavs knew what they wanted, and they went out and got two players they believe can help get them back to contention.
''We felt really comfortable that these were the two right decisions for our organization,'' general manager Chris Grant said. ''What they both bring to the team, what we know about them as people, with all the background we did, made us feel comfortable.''
Waiters never started in two years for Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who liked the spark he got from the 6-foot-4 guard off the bench and out of loyalty to his upperclassmen. Waiters may have only averaged 12.6 points as a reserve, but Scott said not to be fooled by the 20-year-old's limited minutes.
''The fact that the guy didn't start doesn't mean anything to me,'' Scott said. ''The fact that he finished pretty much every game is what I looked at, and the fact that he had the ball in his hands and was able to create for himself and his teammates. There was no game that he was in where the moment was too big. He seemed to really like those situations.''
Waiters embraces the chance to have the ball in his hands with the game on the line. Scott said it will be a luxury to have him paired with Irving in those spots.
''We have another guy who can create,'' Scott said. ''We had one guy in Kyrie. That's a lot of pressure for one guy to handle. Now we have another guy who can share in that. He doesn't mind sharing it. He's not afraid to fail. That's the thing I love about him. He's a competitor and a tough kid.''
The Cavs view Zeller as the most NBA-ready big man in the draft. When he slid past the first 10 teams and into the teens, Grant decided to move quickly to scoop up the ACC's player of the year, who showed a nice flair for fashion by accentuating his suit with Cavs' wine-and-gold-colored pocket squares .
The 7-footer may need to thicken his frame, but Scott believes Zeller's game is already filled out.
''His only negative was that he was a senior and they go lower in the draft,'' he said. ''He does pretty much everything pretty well. He runs the floor extremely well. He rebounds, he blocks shots, he plays good solid defense. His basketball IQ is very high. He can shoot the ball. You can run your offense through him. There's a lot of things about him that we really liked.''
Grant said the Cavs were more thorough in checking out Waiters' background than with any player they've ever drafted. Team scouts spent time on Syracuse's campus and Grant watched Waiters in practice to see how he acted with his teammates.
The Cavs wanted see if there was anything more to him going to four high schools or if reports of Waiters bumping heads with Boeheim were true. In the end, they were satisfied they were getting a player of high character and untapped potential. It helped that one of Grant's closest friends is an assistant on Syracuse's coaching staff.
For Scott, the proof was in those game tapes of Waiters, the ones with him doing his best impression of Wade.
''He's a pit bull,'' Scott said. ''This kid isn't afraid of anyone.''