Dion Waiters Video Scouting Report from Mike Schmitz of DraftExpress.
Few prospects for the 2012 NBA Draft have seen their stock rise quite like Syracuse guard Dion Waiters and it has become increasingly difficult for fans of teams in the top 10 to ignore him.
John Hollinger's draft rater ranked him fourth on his board, writing that, "Waiters projects as the best small wing since Dwyane Wade, and he’d be a steal if somebody got him in the Nos. 8-10 range currently being discussed." Setting aside lofty Wade comparisons, Ed Weiland of Hoops Analyst - and Jeremy Lin early-identifier fame - likes Waiters better than any of the shooting guards in this class beyond the highly-touted Bradley Beal and wrote that he is "one of the few players after Anthony Davis who has actually shown some signs of dominance at the college level." With all the buzz he has generated, Waiters has also reportedly earned himself a promise somewhere in the lottery.
It's not clear who made that promise, but both ESPN's Chad Ford and Sports Illustrated's Sam Amick had the Golden State Warriors selecting Waiters with the seventh pick overall in their recent mock drafts, with Amick also adding some insider information about where he stands on the team's wish list.
When Terrence Jones and Baylor forward Perry Jones faced off in a June 11 workout for Golden State, the Warriors were hoping that one of those two prospects would show an ability to play small forward and possibly become their pick as a result. But that didn't happen, and I'm told that Waiters has supplanted Terrence Jones (who was slotted seventh in Mock 2.0) on the team's wish list. Things remain fluid here (and almost everywhere else), but Waiters' ability to make an immediate impact offensively while also playing some point guard is appealing to a number of lottery teams. The Warriors have Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson as their backcourt of the future, meaning that Waiters could be a good fit in his college role as a high-octane sixth man.
We have Waiters ranked 10th on our GSoM community draft board and even if we would really like the Warriors to select a big, it's clear that Waiters could be ranked even higher on their board.
But Waiters is not without some question marks - and maybe even red flags - so for some additional background on this rising prospect I got in touch with Sean Keeley of SB Nation's Syracuse site Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician.
You can find plenty of statistical information floating around the web on Waiters, but Keeley offers some fan insight about Waiters' "character issues", the logic behind bringing him off the bench at Syracuse, and the persistent question about the defensive abilities of Syracuse grads.
He also reminds us how long a NBA career Syracuse guard Jason Hart had, which was far longer than I had remembered.
Q&A about Dion Waiters
GSoM: Jim Boeheim has apparently called Waiters the best (offensive) guard he ever coached. From your perspective as a Syracuse fan, would you agree that he's the best of the Boeheim era? Who else is in that conversation for you?
Sean Keeley: Trying to decipher Jim Boeheim is a job in and of itself. Sometimes he's painfully honest and sometimes he says things just to prop a guy up or get his mind right. For the most part, I would say that he usually says what he honestly feels. And I know that he never said that about Jonny Flynn or Scoop Jardine, so it's not like he throws the "best guard I've ever coached" thing out there for everyone.
As for whether or not he's the best guard of the Boeheim Era, I think the answer might be yes and no. No because there are a bunch of guards that I would take over Dion with a college game on the line (Gerry McNamara, Sherman Douglas, Pearl Washington, Adrian Autry). Yes because I have a feeling that Dion has a reasonable chance to be a better pro player than all of them. I think that's what Boeheim really meant. Not that Waiters is his No. 1 pick to play against a team of Georgetown All-Stars, but that Waiters will end up being the best Syracuse guard to play in the NBA.
GSoM: Despite Boeheim's praise of Waiters, a major red flag leading up to the draft has been "character issues", mostly stemming from a situation in his freshman year. What would you say is the best account of that situation? And do you think Boeheim and Waiters ever resolved that conflict or was it always sort of lingering beneath the surface?
SK: Our favorite thing about Dion is his catchphrase. "Humble & Hungry." He says it all the time, after every game, anytime he writes something, ad nauseum. What's so great about it is that Dion is anything but humble. It's not that he's cocky, but he knows how friggin' good he is. On Twitter, he spends most of the day retweeting all of the praise and comparisons to Dwyane Wade that he receives. But because he's not actually the one saying it...he's humble. See how that works?
As for that run-in with Boeheim, those kind of incidents are actually rather common with young players on the Syracuse roster. You've got superstar high school kids who suddenly find out Boeheim doesn't think they're good enough to start and pulls them off the court at even a hint of a mistake. This past season, freshman Michael Carter-Williams did something similar after getting chewed out. A couple years ago, backup Mookie Jones walked off the court during a game due to frustration over playing time. It's kind of a rite of passage for young, cocky basketball stars who Boeheim "breaks in."
Here's what you need to know about Waiters and how he responded to that incident: he fought the urge to transfer, stuck with the program, found out that he wouldn't be a starter as a sophomore either, spent the entire season as a sixth-man and STILL played his heart out, was the best athlete on the court at any given time, and never seemed to give up or quit at any point this year. He might not be humble, but he's matured a lot from that freshman flare-up.
GSoM: What's your understanding of why Waiters was asked to come in off the bench? Was it the attitude or a strategic decision?
SK: The fact that Dion Waiters spent the entire season as our sixth man and yet was probably our best pound-for-pound player every night is a strange one but it was, in my opinion, brilliant strategy by Boeheim. It was not because of anything disciplinary or anything like that. It was completely strategic. You had Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche, two veteran guards, start the game. And then, as the opposing team's starters trickled out, here comes a completely fresh Dion Waiters to keep the momentum going. After that, Dion usually ended up playing more than Triche and often even Scoop so the whole starter/non-starter label ended up being pretty silly.
I do think there was some psychology behind it as well. Dion is the kind of guy who would feed off of not being a starter and use it to constantly prove his worth. Had he started Dion and put Triche or Scoop on the bench, the potential for a negative effect was much bigger.
GSoM: How comfortable were you with Waiters playing point guard - or running the offense - for Syracuse? Do you see that as something he could do at the next level?
SK: It's a loaded question because it calls into question the career of Scoop Jardine. Scoop was the senior who was supposed to be trusted at the point. And while Scoop made great strides as a senior, his career is probably best-known for "scoopid" decision-making and memorable gaffes. For many Syracuse fans, we never truly trusted Scoop with the ball.
I never had that issue with Dion. He made mistakes and had a tendency to err on the side of calling his own shot, but I always wanted the ball in his hands when the game mattered over Scoop. Even if Scoop was the better game-manager, I just had more faith in Dion to actually get it done.
I think Dion has a chance at being an on-again, off-again point guard but I don't think I see that as his best spot. Waiters has received a lot of comparisons to Miami's Wade and while that's a huge leap, I think the physicality and the way they play the game is a match. Wade ends up running point but that's not his strength. Same for Dion.
GSoM: People will always have questions about Syracuse draft prospects defensively because of Boeheim's use of the zone. Having watched prospects go on to the NBA over the years with varying levels of success, what insight might you offer about the defensive transition from Syracuse to the NBA, especially for perimeter players?
SK: It's a stigma that unfortunately won't go away anytime soon: the idea that Syracuse players don't know how to play defense. There are plenty of examples of players who prove the rule, like Donte Greene, though it's worth noting that Donte didn't play ANY defense in college, let alone zone. However there are also plenty of examples of players, especially guards, who were able to carve out careers and hold up their end of the bargain on defense. Sherman Douglas played for eleven years. Jason Hart played for ten, which seems crazy. Hakim Warrick has had a solid pro career.
Ultimately, the complaints about any defensive lapses are more player-based than system-based as far as I can tell. Maybe it will take some time for Dion to adjust back to a man-to-man style defense, especially as he makes the adjustment to pro ball, but he's a good enough athlete to make it happen. And for what it's worth, he's a pretty tenacious defender when it comes to creating turnovers.
GSoM: What would you say was the biggest improvement for Waiters in his time at Syracuse and the biggest consistent frustration that just seems like it won't go away?
SK: In the short time we knew Dion, I think you could safely say his defense grew by leaps and bounds in his sophomore season. I never really saw fear on the defensive side of the ball. He was aggressive and he often got results with turnovers and shutting down an opposing guard's movement.
If there's an area that remained a frustration, I think Dion typified the issue that plagued the Syracuse team in 2011-2012. The inability to consistently run a half-court offense. Like Dion, the SU offense worked best in transition. Both are, at times, unstoppable in transition. But in the half-court set, you never really got a sense that Dion was in control. He was usually either just looking for his own shot or rushing things. He's got a lot of work to do in order to succeed in the NBA.
Do you agree with Amick that Waiters would be a good fit with the Warriors? Vote in the poll below and add your thoughts in the comments.
For far more on Syracuse basketball - including first round prospect Fab Melo - visit SB Nation's Syracuse site Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician.