With Irving out, Waiters must rise to the occasion

Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

by Patrick ‘Rey’ Reynell

ESPN has reported that Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving will miss 3-4 weeks after spraining his left shoulder last night in Toronto.

The reigning NBA rookie of the year has been plagued by injuries in his short career, missing 14 games so far this season.

Irving is responsible for the Cavs’ offensive improvement this season; they currently rank 16th in points per game after being 25th last season.

The all-star point guard leads the Cavs with 23 points and 5.7 assists a game. His PER of 22.6 is good for 14th in the league.

Irving’s stellar play will surely be missed, but this Cavaliers team with a seemingly myriad of young talent can possibly maintain its current course of offensive improvement. Coach Byron Scott challenged his team today after practice.


The brunt of that responsibility should fall on the Cavs’ first round pick, Dion Waiters, although he may not see it as daunting a task.

The Cavaliers are 4-6 when they play with Waiters in the lineup and Irving not. Among those wins include the playoff bound Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks. For a team currently in last place in the division, that can be somewhat reassuring looking to the future.

In those 10 games, Waiters’ numbers have spiked as he has displayed the capability to play either guard position.

Naturally, Waiters’ minutes increased in those games from 29.5 to 35.2. More significantly, his offensive production didn’t wane.

Waiters’ points increased from 14.2 to 18.4 and his assists from 3.2 to 4.9.

It was clear in last night’s loss in Toronto that with a game on the line, Waiters will not shy away. He attacked the rim multiple times down the stretch with plenty of deft moves to create the openings.

This was best illustrated when he utilized a Euro-step to tie the game late at 94. On another late possession he passed on a ball screen with an in-and-out dribble and beat the help-side defense for an uncontested layup.

The ball remained in his hands late in the fourth quarter, proving that coach Byron Scott has the confidence in his young rookie to run the team and take the big shot. If it weren’t for a missed fade away and a couple missed free throws from Waiters, the Cavs would have walked out of Canada with a win.

Regardless, the Cavs’ Achilles heel all season has been their defense. They simply could not get a stop late against the Raptors. Perhaps Waiters can change that, too, with solid on-the-ball defense and marking the other team’s best perimeter threat.

Yes, Waiters has already stepped up his production with Irving out. Now with the team’s center piece gone for what could be the remainder of the season, Waiters, along with his youthful cohorts, must learn to defend and close out down the stretch of close games.

2 Responses to "With Irving out, Waiters must rise to the occasion"

  1. Casey   March 12, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Can’t help but think that this Cavs team is some form of redemption for Byron Scott. Not that he hasn’t done a more than efficient job in the past. But proving he can take a bunch of young’uns and turn them into contenders will show his ability to coach.

  2. Rey   March 12, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    I agree. Byron Scott is the perfect coach for a young team. A no-nonsense type of guy for twenty year old millionaires.

    I was dead wrong about Waiters. He has complemented Irving well and can also run the point. He is a way better passer and distributor than he showed at Syracuse. Not afraid to get teammates involved. Tristan Thompson has improved a ton from last season. His offensive production is up 43% and after this game, he now has 23 double-doubles on the season.

    They will get another decent draft spot and hopefully they contend for a playoff spot.

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