NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 23: Dion Waiters #3 of the Syracuse Orange reacts against Virginia Tech Hokies during the 2011 Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden on November 23, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Our series of draft prospect profiles continues with Syracuse's Dion Waiters.
As a freshman last year, Dion Waiters was something of a disappointment after entering the year as a consensus top-25 national recruit. But after a well documented clash with Jim Boeheim, Waiters emerged with a matured demeanor and game in his second year at Syracuse.
Physically, Waiters is a specimen, but a bit of an oddity. At 6'3", he lacks ideal size for the off guard at the next level. And while some scouts see him as a potential point, he has a scorer's instincts that would be wasted as a second point. Despite the slight height deficiency, Waiters has fairly long arms with a 6'7" wingspan. But length isn't the story with Waiters. Waiters is a monster. At somewhere between 200 and 210 pounds, he's a bull on the court while maintaining explosive lateral quickness and that allows him to impose his will on college defenders.
Offensively, Waiters is adept at knowing when and where to attack and has the quickness to get there, like a tailback with his size. Part of his ability to impose his will is how he simply shrugs off defenders who rely on slapping at the ball or his arms as he bulls toward the rim. Once he's in the paint, he does a good job of putting his body into the interior defense and taking away their ability to swat his attempts around the goal. While not an elite leaper, he is quick of the floor and strong in the air.
In addition to being able to finish at the rim, Waiters also flashes a floater that will serve him well at the next level. As far as his jump shot goes, he shows fair touch and solid mechanics, but his results aren't very consistent. Much of his inconsistency stems from a tendency to lean one way or another in the air, even when he's able to get his feet set. But again, he has the touch and mechanics, so it's something more time in the gym should be able to fix. All in all, he is a slasher first who can get to and hold any spot he wants; and when his jumper gets going -- watch out.
Like almost every Jim Boeheim player, he remains much of a question mark on the defensive end after spending his college career hidden in the vaunted Syracuse zone. Despite that, Waiters consistently shows a bulldog mentality on the floor that translates to the defensive end. Though not extremely long, his strength and lateral quickness should provide him a solid foundation for becoming a solid defender at the next level. From all accounts of his workouts leading up to the draft, that competitiveness he shows on the floor has extended to his defensive effort in his auditions for teams.
Waiters biggest minus is undoubtedly his size. The real issue is whether his strength and above average but not elite quickness will be enough to compensate for what he lacks in height -- a concern compounded by his inconsistent jump shot and not quite outstanding vertical athleticism. But the thing about Waiters is that he seems to have such a feel for the game and an understanding of what he can do on the court. The question is how he'll respond when everyone on the floor is close to the athlete he is.
As far as his fit with the Mavericks, he is a wing scorer who likes to get to the lane -- something the team needs. But the question is whether he will be able to do that at the next level, and find the open man when he can't quite get a step. He's not a tremendous facilitator at this point in his career. In many ways he's more of a developmental type given his lead scorer mindset, but could be an asset as a spark of the bench. He's a very unique prospect, and it will be interesting case study to see how he fares at the next level. There is always the potential to try him at the point, though his ability to protect and be judicious with the ball may be compromised by his score-first mentality. But much of that may be moot point for the Mavs, as most pundits have Waiters gone by 15; but you never know with the draft.
In a nutshell, Waiters is a thick, instinctual and aggressive basketball player who understands how to play the game. While his height/length isn't ideal for an NBA two-guard, he's the kind of player who knows how to assert himself and he is the type of player who has the strength and skills to negate a good deal of the size discrepancy he'll face at the next level. He likely won't be around when the Mavs draft at 17, but he is a unique player that it will be interesting to track at the next level.