No team has taken as much public heat after the draft as Cleveland — most people considered it a reach to take Dion Waiters, the Syracuse sixth man, at No. 4.
The reviews have been mixed. Sam Amick at Sports Illustrated graded Cleveland’s draft an “A” saying they picked Waiters but a lot of teams were high on him and how he’d fit in the NBA. Kelly Dwyer at Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie gave them a “C” saying what they really should get is an incomplete because we don’t know enough about Waiters yet. I gave them a “D” because I’m simply not as high on Waiters, but I also will admit that they were not alone in liking him. Incomplete would be a good grade.
The Cleveland front office? They were ecstatic with the pick.
Brian Windhorst of ESPN was embedded with the Cavaliers front office on Thursday night and filed a must-read story about how things went down. The Waiters pick may have been a surprise to you and me, but it didn’t them.
By Thursday night, it was down to about four (players they might pick at No. 4). There were numerous opinions and each scout and coach had slightly different lists. But it was pretty clear there were two names at the top once everything had been culled: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of Kentucky and Dion Waiters of Syracuse….
The reaction in the Cavs’ draft room couldn’t have been more different (than in the public). They had just taken the player they had rated highest who was still available. That included team owner Dan Gilbert, who fully supported the decision. Every pick has risk but the Cavs felt Waiters had emerged as their selection because of how their process worked, not because they wanted to pull a surprise.
“This was the right fit for our team,” (Cavs GM Chris) Grant said several times, including to the local media at a news conference after the draft.
How does Byron Scott feel about all this?
“I was very excited his name was still on the board at No. 4,” Scott said. “I think we got a steal.”
It’s the nature of the draft that things are unknown, that there are risks with every pick. Some of the best GMs don’t follow the consensus.
But Cleveland has bet its turnaround on making good picks. They aced it with Kyrie Irving (although that was a straight forward call) but the book is still out on Tristan Thompson and now Dion Waiters. When you try to rebuild through the draft like this you can’t really miss.
For some of us, Waiters felt like a miss. They see it differently. Time will decide who is right. But Cleveland really can’t afford to swing and miss much.