Yesterday as Yahoo Sports announced ; “Cleveland Cavaliers have reached an agreement in principle to acquire New York Knicks guards J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert in a multi-team trade that also sends guard Dion Waiters to the Oklahoma City Thunder”.
So as expected, Dion Waiters is finally traded to a team. It’s surprising that team is OKC Thunder. There are winners and losers in every trade and we’ve seen countless examples of a good trade turning out to be a bad one or the opposite in the NBA. But let’s look what OKC Thunder, Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks got and what they expected to get with this trade:
New York Knicks
New York Knicks is terrible right now,as they have a losing streak of 12 games and sitting on the last position of the Eastern Conference with an embarassing 5-32 record. They are worse than Philadelphia 76ers recordwise. A season with playoff aspirations has turned into an unforgettable one as Derek Fisher’s crew looked disengaged, awful, interested, embarassing by playing a basketball without any self-confidence at all.
They can only plan the future and they didn’t have any good trade asset other than Iman Shumpert who will be a Cleveland Cavalier from now on.
More minutes for Hardaway JR and Cleanthony Early + Lance Thomas’s addition
By unloading Smith and Shumpert and getting practically nothing in this trade gives the Knicks cap space to target free agents in the off season. I expect this unloading operation to continue for the Knicks. Other than having flexibility in the cap they will be able to develop Tim Hardaway JR. The Knicks will be able to give more minutes to Tim Hardaway JR who only played 22 minutes per game so far this season and let him take more shots & take more responsbility on both ends of the floor. Cleanthony Early , a rookie small forward, will get increased minutes as well. He is averaging 3.2 points per game in 10 minutes of gameplay time. Coach Fisher will be able to play him more as Jr Smith was used as SF when Anthony was on the bench when he was on the team. With the trade New York Knicks get Lance Thomas from OKC Thunder who had a decent season so far – performed better than expected- averaged 5.1 points in small forward position by playing 20.5 minutes per game ( he had some good games under his belt when both Westbrook and Durant was out )
Implication of the trade on New York Knicks’ future
The New York Knicks is targeting the draft. After their horrific start with Shumpert and Smith they were bound for the draft anyway, so nothing changes for the Knicks in that perspective. Now, they’ll have more flexibility in cap space, more peace in the locker-room ( Jr smith’s bad influence – we’ll see about that ) and if Hardaway Jr develops into a solid player , a potential all-star in this league they’ll be happy about it.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma Cith Thunder were criticized for not having a good off-season, only adding Morrow as a shooter off the bench. By adding Waiters they made a pretty big move in their standarts.
Why did OKC Thunder trade for Waiters and why he got traded from Cleveland?
Since they lost Sefolosha in the off-season, they played Roberson in shooting guard position who provided nothing more than defense for the team. He averaged 4.2 points so far but he has no 3 point shot (and no reliable mid-range shot) which meant that OKC had to play 4 vs 5 in half court when Roberson was on the court. This is not much of a problem in the regular season when you have two outstanding, dynamic superstar scorers in Westbrook and Durant but OKC Thunder targets Championship, not regular season success.
I expect Waiters to come off the bench for OKC Thunder, providing spark with Reggie Jackson. Waiters can put the ball in the net, that’s what he’s good at. Yes he isolates the ball a lot and he tends to shoot long contested jumpers a lot. But that’s his game and that’s how he plays. He is not a good defender that’s why he lost his starting guard position to a natural forward – Marion – in Cleveland. Plus, he was not content with his limited touches offensively since James and Love arrived. If Waiters reshaped his game to defend his position and preferred to take spot-up jump shots, he would’ve stayed in Cleveland and he would’ve started in every single game.
How OKC Thunder will use Waiters?
Oklahoma City Thunder will finish the games with Waiters. He will be on the floor with Westbrook, Durant, Ibaka and Adams in the 4th quarters when it matters the most. They might even play ‘Jackson-Waiters-Westbrook-Durant-Adams or Ibaka’ five in some stretch of the games to maximize their offense. Waiters will give them productive minutes off the bench and he will be more useful than Roberson in crunch time as the defense won’t risk leaving Waiters open.
I am still unsure about Waiters’ maturity and dedication to the game. He seems like a guy who cares about his stats, number of shots he takes and individual success more than the team’s success. He didn’t change his mentality in Cleveland even after Lebron came in. Will he be a different player and be an important piece for a contender like OKC Thunder ? That remains to be seen. OKC Thunder surely took risk with him but they didn’t lose much in the trade. So, OKC Thunder made a good job on paper but the success of this trade pretty much depends on Waiters’ mentality.
Waiters experiment failed
Things doesn’t look well in Cleveland who were supposed to be at top of the Eastern Conference this time around. They had to make a move and moving Waiters was the obvious choice. Waiters was an important piece in Cleveland if you looked at their roster before the season started. They improved SF and PF positions with Lebron James and Kevin Love, they had an all-star PG in Irving and Waiters was supposed to fill in in the shooting guard position. It was true that last year Irving and Waiters clashed and Waiters thought he’d be the star of the team if he was given the chance. Many expected Waiters to play under control with Lebron and championship aspiriations coming up this year but it didn’t happen.
You can’t win Championship with Marion in Shooting Guard Position
Cleveland Cavaliers is a bad defensive team and they are playing without their rim protector Anderson Varejao who they lost to injury for the season 2 weeks ago. Even before Varejao got hurt, Shawn Marion started as SG of Cleveland in place of Waiters to have defensive stability on the floor. Plus, they didn’t need another guy who needed the ball in his hands to be effective while they had Irving and Lebron – ball dominant players - . So Waiters was coming off the bench but if you are contending for Championship your best defender can not be Shawn Marion at shooting guard position, it just can’t. There’s no point in playing a back-up forward as starting shooting guard unless you are desperate.
Cleveland Cavaliers was desperate to find a starting shooting guard in place of Marion and they have two now in Shumpert and Smith. Their biggest trade asset – Waiters – is gone for those two and I think it’s a good move if not a great one.
Shumpert move is spot-on, Jr is a small upgrade on Waiters
First of all, Jr Smith and Dion Waiters are similar players but i’d give JR an edge as he’s more experienced and a little bit more talented than Waiters at this point of their careers. Plus Smith will happily come off the bench and do his job, he wouldn’t demand a starting position as Waiters do. Then they have Shumpert who is one of the best defensive two guards in this league. Iman Shumpert can defend his position plus he can help you with his outside game which the Cavs exactly needed from that position. I think Cleveland made an excellent job in landing Shumpert, he’ll play big for them on both ends of the floor.
So Cleveland made a good move overall, they got an indeal two guard in Shumpert – exactly what they needed – and they got a slight upgrade over Waiters with Jr Smith. The only bad side of this trade is they wasted their trade asset on two shooting guards, they couldn’t address their big-man needs. They’d look to add a center or two via free agency – a veteran probably – and we’ll see how it’ll work.
With those trades, I’d suggest Oklahoma Cith Thunder can improve from 10 to 15 % depending on Waiters’ contribution, Cleveland Cavaliers can improve from 20 to 30 % depending on Shumpert and Smith’s contributions. New York Knicks are in another realm right now, they’d be happy if Hardaway Jr can develop into a star sometime soon.