Waiters trade leaves more questions rather than answers for Thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder traded for Dion Waiters from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

David Richard/David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Shortly before the Thunder fell to 0-3 against Golden State this season, Dion Waiters was on his way to join the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Waiters, who was acquired in a three-way deal Monday evening that sent Lance Thomas and a future draft pick to New York and Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith to Cleveland, is more question than answer.

Just perfect for the shooting guard position in Oklahoma City. Waiters will fit right in on a team where shooting guard equals soap opera.

Oh, Waiters can score, that’s for sure. He averaged more than 15 points per game last season. He’ll be an offensive option off the bench for the Thunder.

Just like Anthony Morrow.

Just like Reggie Jackson, who, yes, isn’t officially a shooting guard, but is when Russell Westbrook is in the game.

Just like Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones. 

The Thunder are at their saturation point for one-way shooting guards. There’s also Andre Roberson, another one-way player, who can guard and rebound, but can’t shoot.

And just like the rest of the guards, Waiters has some issues.

So, why Waiters, who is known more for not really getting along with LeBron James than he is for anything else?

Well, because he’s more of a sure thing than Lamb and Jones, is an insurance to Jackson and is more dependable than Roberson.

By default, Waiters and Morrow will now be responsible for the bulk of the bench scoring.

Here’s why:

Jackson has clearly expressed he doesn’t like coming off the bench and could still be moved before the trade deadline. 

Lamb is a curious case. He has played, but not regularly. He has starred, but not consistently. He has been traded once, coming to Oklahoma City as part of the James Harden deal and he has been benched often. Thanks to the addition of Waiters, Lamb could be dealt before the trading deadline, too. Lamb has fallen out of the rotation, for reasons not yet explained.

Then there’s Jones, good enough to get 30-plus points earlier this season, but he’s often invisible. Jones seemingly missed his chance to shine when he went out earlier this season with a leg injury. 

And we know Roberson’s limitations.

It’s hard to tell what the Thunder need, mostly because we don’t know what the Thunder have. Both Westbrook and Kevin Durant have missed a significant number of games which has led to inconsistencies in the lineup and a lot of fluidity on the court. They fell to 17-18 on the season Monday after a 117-91 loss to Golden State, but its record is not indicative of anything. The Thunder will be better when they start to play together.

There’s plenty of talent, but there hasn’t been plenty of time to figure out where to put it all since the Thunder haven’t had the luxury of playing with a consistent lineup.

Just now, as we head into the new year, the Thunder are nearly 100 percent healthy. They have Westbrook and Durant, but past that, they still have issues, most notably at the shooting guard spot.

Here comes Waiters, the fourth overall pick two seasons ago. He’ll step into a spot that has been constantly in flux since James Harden left. There’s been Kevin Martin and Caron Butler. This season, there’s been Lamb and Jones and Co. 

The rest of the way it’s going to be Waiters, who has averaged just more than 10 points per game this year and more than 14 for his two-year career.

But he’s struggled to fit in at Cleveland and he’ll come to the Thunder with plenty of questions.

Just like the rest of the Oklahoma City players at that position.

Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK