Can the Unpredictable Dion Waiters Help OKC Win a Title?


Ever since the James Harden trade, Thunder fans have been clamoring for GM Sam Presti to make a splash in free agency or the trade market. Yet summers and trade deadlines have come and gone without many big moves and it seemed as if Presti was content with standing pat.

Until last night.

Presti made arguably the second biggest trade of his career, behind the Harden trade, when he gave up very little to get scorer Dion Waiters from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Initial reports seemed to dispute this when Brian Windhorst from reported that Reggie Jackson was included in the trade.

However, this was soon amended when it was reported that the Thunder gave up Lance Thomas and a highly protected 1st round pick.

What the Thunder gave up to get Waiters is very clear. However, how Waiters will impact the Thunder is very unpredictable. Some believe Waiters will now take the starting shooting guard job from Andre Roberson but that will likely not be the case. The Thunder’s culture has always been defense first and Roberson reflects that extremely well. While Waiters will probably get more minutes, Roberson will still be tasked with slowing down the opposing team’s shooting guard from getting into an offensive rhythm.

Bringing Waiters off the bench makes much more sense than starting him for OKC. Waiters’ best skills are scoring and creating his own shot, which isn’t needed in the starting lineup with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook trying to get in rhythm. The interesting part of Waiters coming in is the possibility that he may be a better scorer than Jackson.

While Jackson is excellent at attacking the rim, Waiters is much better at being able to get to his spots on the floor. Jackson’s inconsistent jumper forces him to rely on finishing at the basket to stay efficient. On the other hand, Waiters has a decent jump shot and can also effectively attack the basket.

In short, Waiters’ offensive arsenal will help a Thunder bench that often has trouble scoring, become much more effective at doing exactly that.

Even before Waiters arrived, there was a logjam at the shooting guard position. Roberson, Jackson, Anthony Morrow, and Jeremy Lamb have all been vying for minutes. With the addition of Waiters, it is likely that Roberson will play less minutes and Lamb will be cut from the rotation completely.

It may be sad for Thunder fans who had hope for Lamb, but Waiters and Morrow score much more consistently than Lamb and he is simply a redundant piece of the Thunder’s puzzle now.

Jeremy Lamb

likely won’t be a part of the Thunder’s rotation with

Dion Waiters

‘ arrival.

This is a scary prediction, but I truly believe Waiters is going to help Durant and Westbrook more than he will hinder them. I am banking on the possibility that the leaders and culture of this Thunder team will help Waiters realize his full potential. Thunder critics begin and end with saying that the team needs a scorer who can take pressure off Durant and Westbrook. While Jackson can do that occasionally and Morrow’s floor spacing helps greatly, Waiters is now the third-best shot creator on this team.

Another way Waiters may be able to help the Thunder is with his catch-and-shoot ability. This is a bit of an unknown though, as Waiters’ catch-and-shoot percentage this year is horrible. An analysis by John Schuhmann from perfectly highlights Waiters’ ability and effectiveness as a catch-and-shoot scorer.

Obviously his 2014-2015 season percentage is horrible, but Waiters was much more effective in this regard last season. If he can get back to that level, he will become a dangerous weapon to an already excellent, yet sometimes stagnant, Thunder offense.

Waiters is a low-risk/high-reward acquisition. OKC didn’t give up much to get him so if he busts, so be it.

But if Waiters matures under the Thunder’s existing leadership and reaches his potential, this trade will be talked about as the one that finally got OKC over the championship hump.

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