Last week on the Six Overtimes podcast, we profiled UConn center Andre Drummond, a can’t miss, potential #1 pick in next year’s NBA draft. He backed up our high praise by posting a near-flawless performance (11-12, 24 point 8 rebounds) against an inferior Holy Cross opponent on Saturday.
Waiters is not a flawless player by any stretch — he doesn’t even start for the Orangemen. But that is makes him so intriguing. This isn’t a man destined for NBA stardom like Drummond. This is a guy who after last season was on the verge of transferring due to a deep ‘Cuse backcourt and alleged run-ins with coach Jim Boeheim. Not as pristine as Drummond to say the least.
After scoring 18 points against Marquette in the 3rd rd of the NCAA tourney, Waiters vowed to end the clashes with coaches and the attitude issues. He matured heading into his sophomore season, eating better, working on his jumpshot and accepting his role as ‘Cuse’s sixth man.
After a slow start, Waiters has come on and is beginning to turn around NBA scouts who initially rated him low due to his inconsistent jumper, lack of position, attitude problems and questionable work ethic.
A tweener at 6’4’’, Waiters is listed as a shooting guard but can handle enough to create his own shot, allowing him to swing to point guard when needed. I describe Waiters with one word: Attack. He attacks the basket off ball screens, in transition and in pick and roll situations. The guy looks to score on every possession.
Right now for the Orangemen, he is being counted on as their instant-offense guy. In late November, Waiters turned a corner against a solid Virgina Tech club on national TV. Waiters provided a much needed spark for Syracuse in the semis of the NIT season tip-off, scoring 11 second-half points, helping the Orangemen come back and win against the Hokies at MSG.
After the game, Va Tech’s head coach, Seth Greenberg called Waiters “A beast” who “single-handedly changes the game.”
In his last three games, Waiters has shot 65% (21-32) from the field averaging 18.8 pts a contest.
A Philly native, Waiters is drawing comparisons to Tyreke Evans, another Philly product. I wouldn’t go that far. Although he’s averaging 22 mins a game, more than double from his freshman season, Waiters needs more seasoning and more ball-handling skills before he can compare to Evans. I see him more as Tyreke’s teammate, Marcus Thornton. He also reminds me of the Detroit Pistons’ combo-guard, Rodney Stuckey. Stuckey started his career as a point guard but moved to shooting guard this season after the Pistons drafted Brandon Knight. Waiters has a similar score first mentality.
Waiters’ game may ultimately translate better in the pros than the college game where the college coaches like Jim Boeheim control the offensive and defensive sets on a more regular basis. ESPN.com’s Chad Ford believes Waiters has worked his way into a potential first-round draft pick, proving how hard and how far Waiters has come along this season.
Waiters would be a great fit for a team drafting late in the first round. A team like the Lakers, who are in desperate need of youth at the guard spot, would be perfect for Waiters. Kobe Bryant’s offseason workout regimen is legendary. Put Waiters among a group of vets like the Lakers or the Spurs and you have a potential late-round steal.
At the end of the day, you want guys on your team who can score the basketball at any moment. Waiters, for all his flaws, has that ability.