The Cavs (Finally!) Traded Dion Waiters. I Am Ecstatic. Here's Why.

Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

1. At the moment, Dion Waiters is not a very good NBA basketball player. This is a fact most who follow the NBA agree on. He is average to below average in pretty much every advanced metric you can name — advanced metrics were basically invented just to prove that players like Dion Waiters were ineffective — and he only passes the eye test if you rub Old Bay in your eyes. There are some who believe his current status is temporary; that he has the potential to one day be a very good NBA basketball player. I do not. Much of the talk about his potential is connected to his draft position (he was the 4th pick in the NBA draft). Basically, since the nutless monkeys employed in Cleveland's front office then decided to pick him that high, he must be talented enough to justify their decision, so any flash of potential ends up being a sign of what he could eventually be. So, instead of being seen as a (relatively) short and (relatively) unathletic shooting guard with no single elite NBA skill — which is exactly what he is — he becomes a guy who "just needs the right situation" or "needs to mature" or "needs to stop running trains with Josh Gordon."


There are worse things in the world than not being a very good NBA basketball player. Beets, for instance. What makes Waiters fucking Waiters is the fact that he steadfastly believes he is a very good NBA basketball player. Not "will be one day." Or "can eventually be if I work really hard and stop running trains." No, he believes he is a very good NBA basketball player today. Like, right now. As you're reading this at your cubicle or on a Megabus to Baltimore, Dion Waiters is somewhere (probably Chipotle) believing that he's a very good NBA basketball player. This belief influences everything he does on the basketball court. The contrasting reality influences the result of everything he does on the basketball court. The semi-contested 19-foot stepbacks with 18 seconds left on the shot clock; shots that are always only semi-contested because the guy guarding him is usually baiting him into shooting. The hysterical clapping of his hands and flailing of his arms whenever a teammate has the audacity to not stop everything they're currently attempting to do and realize that Dion Fucking Waiters wants the basketball. The shrieks of "And one!!!" whenever he misses another layup (Which happens frequently because he's an NBA shooting guard who somehow can't shoot left-handed layups!) and hopes to get bailed out by the refs. The chest pounds, ice grills, glares, and shit talking whenever one or two of the last six or seven shots he attempts somehow limps its way into the hoop.

He's the rare type who manages to be two of the most hated pick-up basketball archetypes: "The Guy Who Think's He's Much Better Than He Actually Is And Ends Up Shooting Your Team Out Of A Win" and "The Guy Who Calls Ball Every Time He Misses And Wants To Fight Every Time Someone Boxes Him Out."

Basically, Dion Waiters is the basketball jabberwocky.

2. Also, you cannot talk about Dion Waiters — at least I cannot — without talking about Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry. (Yes, I know. Just stay with me.)

Stephen Curry is not the best player in the NBA, but he is the most entertaining and may very likely be the MVP this season. He has an electric and exhilarating game that combines historically elite shooting, adroit ball-handling, and surprisingly creative passing and finishing with a legitimate fearlessness and unbridled joy that makes him both your 16-year-old nephew's favorite NBA player and your nephew's 46-year-old high school coach's favorite player.

But, the Stephen Curry we know today would not be the Stephen Curry we know today if not for something that happened on March 13, 2012.


On that date, Monta Ellis was traded from the Golden State Warriors (Curry's team) to the Milwaukee Bucks. Who he was traded for (Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson) is (relatively) inconsequential. What matters here is that the Warriors traded Ellis. And this matters because Ellis, while very talented, believed he, not Curry, deserved to be the Warriors' franchise player.

Ellis balked when the Warriors first drafted Curry, questioning why the franchise would select a combo guard who was so similar to him in size (Both Ellis and Curry are 6'3 and roughly 180 pounds) and playing style. They managed to coexist on the court, but the relatively laidback Curry — who battled injuries his first few years — clearly deferred to the more headstrong Ellis. And Ellis clearly took the franchise's favor of Curry over him personally; which, if you believe you're better than the person getting the favor — which Ellis did — is understandable.


So, for Stephen Curry to be free to be able to be the Stephen Curry we see today, Monta Ellis had to leave. He would not have blossomed the same way if still forced to share a backcourt with a guy intent on proving he's better than him. Just look at the jump in his stats between the last year he played with Ellis (2011-2012) and the first full year without Ellis.

And, as a founding member of the Kyrie Irving fan club, this is why I'm fucking ecstatic the Cavs finally traded Dion Waiters.


From day one, drafting Waiters while already having Irving never made much sense. They're similar sized and have somewhat overlapping skill sets, with Irving's skills vastly surpassing Waiters'. And, to make things worse, Waiters steadfastly believes he's better than Kyrie — because Dion Waiters is Dion Waiters — and this belief resulted in a never-not-awkward backcourt pairing with one already headstrong guy itching to prove he's better than a guy he's clearly — clearly — not better than. This wasn't Kelly Rowland sheepishly saying she was "co-lead" singers with Beyonce. This was Destiny's Child drafting K. Michelle, with K. Michelle snatching mics and wigs from Bey on stage.

But now Waiters is gone. And Kyrie has a chance to play the way he plays every other time Dion Waiters is not one of his teammates.


You know, the way he played here…

…and here…

..and here.

That said, Waiters is 23. He has a considerable amount of time to prove everything I'm saying here today about his attitude and lack of self-awareness is wrong. And if he's smart, he will. Because he's now teammates with Russell Westbrook, and if he tries that "It's my turn to shoot because we need equal shots because I'm better than you" shit with Russell Westbrook on the floor, Russell Westbrook might literally decapitate him. And while I'm fucking ecstatic Dion Waiters is gone off the Cavs, I don't want him, you know, dead or anything.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)



Dion had to go but I'm not sure what they solved. JR Smith is just Dion Waiters with DirecTV, if Iman gets healthy and starts he can pick up Kyrie's slack defensively but they still need a rim protector, Kevin Love to buy into his role, a coach or GM who isn't afraid of LeBron, new jerseys, a critical injury to one of the top 4 seeds in the east, Brian Windhorst to stop snitching, and Ray Allen to answer LeBrons texts