Dion Waiters and the simple adjustment that could change everything
Cleveland Cavaliers fans certainly grew weary of the clanging of iron produced by so many ill-fated Dion Waiters jump shots over two-plus seasons. And it’s not as if Oklahoma City Thunder fans are going with the "au-to-mat-ic" chant each time he winds up and launches.
Waiters is a career 41.3-percent shooter from the floor and 32.8 percent from beyond the arc. It’s just the potential always seems to be there for Waiters to become a reliable scorer off the bench. Yet he’s averaging a career-worst 9.9 points on 9.2 shot attempts and playing similar minutes to his previous seasons. He’s shooting just 40.5 percent from the floor and 33.9 percent from deep.
But, is it possible that Waiters has finally figured out why his jumper comes up dry more often than not? Can it really be as simple as it seems? Are his last three games — 56 points on 52.6 percent shooting overall (20 of 38) and 46.2 percent on 3s (6 of 13) a sign of a new-day Dion?
Here’s what Waiters said, via The Oklahoman, he discovered recently about his shooting mechanics on open jumpers and how it hurts his accuracy: "I’m like, ‘Wow, you fading and you don’t even have to fade.’ So I just told myself just try to come straight up and down."
That’s it. Jump straight up and come straight down and the chances of the ball going in the bucket rise considerably. Fade away for no apparent reason and the chances of the ball staying on track decrease.
It might not take a shot doctor to figure that out, but it didn’t hurt Waiters to start shooting around with Kevin Durant, a naturally gifted shooter and ultra-efficient scorer who keeps his mechanics simple.
"(Durant) told me stay there when you shoot it,” Waiters said. “I start doing all this crazy stuff. Lean back, trying to look all cute."
The biggest difference between the Thunder and the Western Conference’s two best teams, Golden State and San Antonio, is how well-rounded the two latter clubs are. Both can bring multiple scorers off the bench. Oklahoma City continues to struggle with role players, a problem throughout the last four or five years that the Thunder have been title contenders.
They’ll surely take Waiters scoring 18 points a game and shooting 50 percent compared to the player who puts rims out of commission.
It will be fascinating to watch if Waiters truly is on to something and can keep rolling — maybe not at the pace of the last three games, but something close — or if he’ll revert back to being the 40-percent shooter he’s always been.