The trade is official. The Cleveland Cavaliers have traded Dion Waiters to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a three-team deal that also includes the New York Knicks.
You can read the breaking news article on MTAF here. As I promised, I will go more into depth with the trade.
Obviously, the Cavs are giving away Waiters. Here are the other moving parts:
Cavs receive – Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith from the Knicks and a future protected first round pick from the Thunder. This pick is top-18 protected this year and top-15 protected in 2016 and 2017. If the pick isn’t converted by then, it becomes two second rounders in 2018. The Cavs will use the disabled player exception they got from Anderson Varejao’s injury to absorb Shumpert’s $2.6 million contract, as Fear The Sword’s Ryan Mourton brilliantly explained here.
Thunder receive – Dion Waiters from the Cavs.
Knicks receive – Alex Kirk, Lou Amundson, and a second round pick from the Cavs and Lance Thomas from the Thunder.
I have been insistent on the Cavs not trading Dion Waiters and wrote about it a month before he was dealt. Little did I know this was the type of return the Cavs could get for him.
Dion’s been one of my favorite Cavs for a while, which is weird considering I was ticked about the Cavs drafting him over Harrison Barnes in 2012. Eventually, I fell into the group that would defend the Dion pick, arguing that he had compared favorably to Barnes. Whether that was right or wrong is irrelevant now. Barnes has been trending upward on a hot Warriors team while Dion couldn’t find the rhythm that he found at the end of last year.
Waiters will leave the Cavs this season averaging 23.8 minutes per game, 10.5 points on 40.4% shooting and 25.6% from 3-pt. The latter stat is disappointing. Not only is it far and away Dion’s career low, but I expected him to improve his outside shooting with the players the Cavs added in the offseason.
Coming into this season, the expectation for Dion was for him to improve his decision-making, specifically his quality of shots. This meant taking less mid-range jumpers in favor of spot-up 3’s and buckets in the paint. Since he was teammates with, not only Kyrie Irving, but LeBron James and Kevin Love, I thought it would have been best for Dion to be able to take more catch and shoot shots and less dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-contested-fall away shots.
Though Dion’s raw numbers and play on the court showed that he was struggling, I did think he was trying to adjust to the role the Cavs wanted for him. Last year, 17.4% of his shots were catch and shoot 3’s. This year that number rose to 19.6%. He also decreased the amount of two-point pullups he took from 32% to 27.5% while increasing the percentage of shots taken within 10 feet of the rim from 34.7% to 40.9%.
While those numbers show that Dion was willing to change his mindset on the type of shots to put up, his field goal percentages on catch and shoot 3’s left a lot to be desired, seeing a heavy decrease from 41.6% to 25.4%. His favorite shot, the mid-range two, has also been on the decline this season, dropping from 43.1% to 37%. Dion was able to improve his efficiency around the rim, a weakness of his, improving on his FG% in the restricted area from 51% to 54.1%.
Overall, Dion saw career lows in FG% (40.4%), eFG% (43.6%), and TS% (46.8). This was less than ideal as the Cavs were counting on him to be a reliable bench scorer and unfortunately that adjective just didn’t fit him this year, probably for a multitude of reasons.
Dion’s been an interesting player in his time in Cleveland. When people said he was no good, I thought there was still a good chance he would be a crucial contributor to a championship team for the Cavs. Obviously, none of us will get to see that through. Hopefully, in a more stable organization like the Thunder (one coach in seven years compared to four for the Cavs in that span [if you count Mike Brown twice]), Dion will be able to play better and be more at ease.
I still think there’s promise for Dion. He’s a fun player to watch, even if he’s frustrating or flat out bad at times. He plays hard, is uber confident, aggressive, and just recently, a talented and willing passer. He might have found a permanent home in OKC, should the Thunder let Reggie Jackson walk.
Despite the report below by FSO’s Sam Amico, I think this trade had more to do with attaining talent than getting rid of Waiters. I never would’ve expected Dion to net a quality haul like the one the Cavs just got.
Now onto the newest Cleveland Cavaliers:
Iman Shumpert is expected to be the main piece in this trade for the Cavs. At 24 years old, he’s young enough to where he can help in the future, but with 3+ years under his belt, he’s already built up a solid reputation. He has the potential to help the Cavs in multiple areas. First, he’s very athletic, a trait that is lacking on this Cavs team. He’s also been talked about as being a shut down defender at his best with the ability to guard multiple positions. While his ability on this side of the ball has arguably fluctuated, hopefully a move to a contender will be something that enables him to focus on perfecting his defensive abilities.
Shumpert has also shown some shooting potential, though that has wavered from year-to-year. In the 2012-2013 season, Shumpert shot 40.2% from deep, but is just a 34.3% 3-pt shooter for his career. He has improved his catch-and-shoot from long-range this year to 39.2%, up 3.1% from last year. Shumpert becoming a 3 and D stud would help the Cavs immensely, as that’s exactly what they’re looking for from their starting two-guard.
While Shumpert’s potential is exciting, he does come with some question marks. In over three years, he’s missed 65 out of 267 games. He’s also currently rehabbing a dislocated shoulder and is expected to return to action soon.
Shumpert is also a restricted free agent after this season and will hope to cash in. I’m not a capologist, but with the contracts of LeBron, Kyrie, Anderson Varejao, and Love hitting free agency (AND EXPECTED TO RE-SIGN), and Tristan Thompson being a restricted free agent, the Cavs will have some decisions to make as to where they want to allocate their money.
This is where it gets fun. The Cavs also acquired J.R. Smith. This is interesting if only because one of the players that Dion Waiters gets compared to the most happens to be Smith – more so with their playing style rather than talent levels. On the court, Smith, like Shumpert, has only played in 24 of 37 games. He’s missed one game due to suspension and others due to sickness and a heel/foot injury. He averaged 25.8 minutes per game and 10.9 points on 40.2% shooting and 35.6% from deep.
The 29-year-old Smith won the Sixth Man of the Year award back in 2012-2013, when the Knicks won 54 games and J.R. averaged 33.5 minutes per game. Smith will take over Waiters’s role as the Cavs’ main bench scorer and I expect him to perform better than Dion did this year. Smith is another athletic wing player in this deal for the Cavs, though he doesn’t have the defensive potential that Shumpert has.
Like Waiters, Smith is a streaky player, though to a much higher degree in that when he’s hot, he is HOT. He’s not afraid to shoot it either, as last year 50.3% of his shots were 3-pointers, making 39.4% of them.
J.R. comes with his fair share of question marks as well. He’s been suspended a numerous amount of times for various reasons; from violating the NBA’s anti-drug program to elbowing Jason Terry in a playoff game in 2013. I don’t think it’s a matter of “if” Smith does something to frustrate fans, it’s a matter of how many times will he frustrate fans. He will do some questionable things, on and off the court, but hopefully vets like LeBron, Mike Miller, and James Jones will be able to keep him in check (relatively speaking).
The Cavs also acquired a pick from the Thunder. The protections on it for this year (top-18) mean the Cavs will almost certainly get the pick this year. However, more than likely, this pick is just another asset for the Cavs to deal for a big man. The Cavs are second last in the league in opponent FG% less than five feet away from the rim at 62.9%. While Shumpert should help in terms of preventing drives to the rim, a solid rim protector would help lower opponent’s conversion rates at the basket.
The Cavs can use this pick along with their $5.2 million trade exception they got for trading Keith Bogans to help them acquire a big. Two names that have come up consistently throughout the season are Denver’s Timofey Mozgov (making $4.6 million) and Memphis’s Kosta Koufos ($3 million). Mozgov has a team option for next year while Koufos is a free agent after this year.
Other rim protectors that I think are possible for the Cavs’ TPE via trade include guys like Ian Mahinmi ($4 million), Bismack Biyombo ($3.8 million), Mason Plumlee ($1.3 million), and Brandan Wright ($5 million).
In the end, I have mixed emotions about this deal, but I do think it’s a good one. Sure there are some risks, but that goes with any trade. I’ll miss watching Dion every night. I’m glad I was able to watch him as much as I did. But at the same time, the Cavs got good players with the potential to get another good player. I’m anxious to see how this plays out.
Thanks for the memories, Dion.