Where Dion Waiters Fits Into Cavaliers Shooting Guard History


Okay, look. I spent weeks telling everyone that would listen – and tons of people that wouldn’t – that I wanted the Cleveland Cavaliers to draft Harrison Barnes with the fourth overall pick and then trade back into the lottery to draft Tyler Zeller. I can’t just start running around like I saw Dion Waiters as the Cavaliers pick coming from a distance, and I also can’t just throw my hands up and start trashing Barnes.

My post draft thoughts were more geared toward finding out what NBA GMs knew about Harrison Barnes and Dion Waiters that I didn’t know. There were lots of Barnes dissenters out there that lined up to say “I told you so”, but none of my objective colleagues could pin down what happened to cause Barnes to drop to the seventh pick overall.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it thousands of more times; NBA executives are more plugged in and aware of players and situations that even the most educated fans. There are GMs that I disagree with and NBA bloggers that I respect a ton, but that doesn’t change the circles in which those people work. NBA executive circles just know more. That’s why they’re the sources we all report about.

Now that I haven’t answered any of the questions about Harrison Barnes, I can’t figure out exactly what to think of Dion Waiters. Everyone familiar with Syracuse loves the guy. Home town writers loving their star might not exactly strike fans as objective, but their words carry the weight of invested observers.

Those that have seen Waiters’ game up close are full of stories about how he will help the Cavaliers. He’s explosive, got a great wingspan, is an efficient scorer, and every other basketball cliché around. The question that I have about Waiters, though, isn’t about whether he’s a good player or even a good fit for the Cavaliers. Those answers are obvious. Dion Waiters is very good, and will be an NBA scorer. And Dion Waiters fits with the Cavaliers because the team needs players that can score.

My question is where does the 20-year old rookie already rank among Cavaliers shooting guards?

I’ve got him third.

I know that seems high, but have you looked at the history of Cavaliers shooting guards recently? Let’s look back.

The inaugural 1970-71 season featured… ummm… well, the Bill Fitch led Cavaliers funneled their scoring to their big men. Bingo Smith was a young star during the 70s for the Cavaliers, but he was more of a forward than a guard. (Admittedly, I’m working off of old articles and reference websites. If you’re a 50 year diehard fan, feel free to give me a holler.)

The next season, 1971-72, the Cavaliers drafted Austin Carr from the University of Notre Dame. Don’t worry guys; I have Mr. Get That Weak Stuff Outta Here as #1. (Not really for any other reason than I don’t want him to take me down into the paint and hit me with a hard elbow. Carr only averaged more than 20 ppg three seasons, and played in an era that is increasingly hard to compare with the current one.)

Moving forward on the Cavaliers timeline a couple of years introduces fans to none other than World B. Free. A couple of years are actually a decade, because even though Free was drafted in 1975, he was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers. Then traded to the San Diego Clippers (for what ended up being Charles Barkley. The Clippers were cursed even back then), then traded to the Golden State Warriors, and then finally sent to the Cavaliers.

World B., a journeyman on his fourth team, was instantly the Cavaliers leading scorer. Not just during the 1982-83 season, but his 24 ppg tied him with Mike Mitchell as the top season scorers in the Cavaliers young history.

World B. Free averaged 23 ppg during his four year tenure with the Cavaliers. That’s good for second best ever shooting guard in franchise history. Look at that again, it’s not really that good.

The rest of the all-time great Cavaliers shooting guard list isn’t exactly littered with Naismith Hall of Famers.

Ron Harper is certainly a memorable Cavalier, but not because he dominated the court in the Wine and Gold. Ron Harper is remembered in Cleveland for being a solid draft pick with a ton of potential that got magically turned into Danny Ferry’s ten year contract. Harper didn’t blow the doors off of anyone, but he averaged 16 ppg and won five NBA Championships. (He didn’t win them until he was providing veteran leadership, but hell, that’s five more Championships than the Cavaliers have)

The late 80s Cavaliers teams featured Craig Ehlo – a small forward pushed into guard duty occasionally – Dell Curry – for one year, before he got decent – the aforementioned Ron Harper, and that was about all she wrote as far as shooting guards go. Those teams featured Mark Price, Brad Daugherty, Hot Rod Williams, and Larry Nance. They were fantastic teams in their day. But there was never any great, dependable shooting guard to take pressure off of Price in the back court. Sound familiar?

The 90s and early 2000s were a roller coaster for the Cavaliers. The great teams died off and were replaced with Bobby Sura and Fat Shawn Kemp led train wrecks. Not every player on the roster was terrible, but Wesley Person and Bobby Sura were the highlights of Cavaliers shooting guards during that era, so there won’t be any Waiters challengers out of this bunch. At least we drafted Trajan Langdon. He’ll for sure make an appearance on the list! (Ummm. Not.)

That leaves us with only the super modern era Cavaliers to find a shooting guard better then Dion Waiters. Surely a team led by GM Jim Paxson and Head Coach John Lucas would land a premier shooting guard either through the draft or free agency. Once Lucas was replaced with Paul Silas, the Cavaliers were rocking a shooting guard trio of Ricky Davis, Dujaun Wagner, and Lucious Harris. LeBron James was on the team by then, and we all know what happened to the Cavaliers with LeBron James!

Larry Hughes, Flip Murray, Shannon Brown, Devin Brown, and maybe Daniel Gibson happened to the Cavaliers shooting guard role. (Boobie is a shooting guard like any point guard who can shoot lights out but can’t dribble or defend big wings is a shooting guard. It’s pretty much Boobie and Steve Kerr)

In other words, the LeBron era was just as bad for shooting guards as any other era was, we just had LeBron.

So there you have it. The history of Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guards has now been told and it’s actually pretty obvious where Dion Waiters ranks among them. Austin Carr and World B. Free are #1 and #2, with Waiters and Harper fighting for the #3 spot.

Maybe I gave Waiters the edge because he’s young and has tons of potential. Maybe I’m just still bitter than Harper went on to win five rings while Cavaliers fans were stuck powdering Danny Ferry’s head so the glare wouldn’t blind us. But whatever the reason, Dion Waiters steps onto the floor at Quicken Loans Arena as the third best shooting guard in Cavaliers history.

Sure, it’s possible Waiters retires tied with Bob Wilkerson on the list, but running next to Kyrie Irving could turn him into something much more. Look out, A.C.; Dion is coming your way.


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Josh says things. Here and at Josh Flagner {dot} com. #MTAF #CavsZine