In a way, Dion Waiters is like the incredible Hulk. You wouldn‚Äôt like him when he‚Äôs angry. Against NC State, Scott Wood made the ‚Äúmistake‚Äù of blocking Waiters. Dion responded with a 3, a steal and an aggressive dunk. Good news Syracuse fans: Dion Waiters is upset.
‚ÄúI think we owe Seton Hall a little something from last year after what they did to us last year at home. That left a bad taste in my mouth for a long time.‚Äù
Waiters has been the sparkplug for SU this year. According to statsheet.com, Waiters has an average Roland Rating of 5 points per game. That means on average, SU is 5 points better with Waiters on the court than when he‚Äôs off it. He‚Äôs only averaging 21 minutes per game. Talk about impact.
The changes in Waiters game are well documented but as with Fab Melo, it all starts with him being in better shape. He‚Äôs listed at 6‚Äô4, 215 lbs. (like last year),¬†but Dion looks like he’s¬†shed¬†about 10 lbs. and added some muscle. He‚Äôs leaner. He‚Äôs¬†quicker and that leads to perhaps the fastest first step in college basketball. That first step¬†gets him¬†to the rim and major production.
Waiters has 7 games of 14 points or more. When defenses adjust, Waiters has no problem dishing the ball off. He‚Äôs got 7 games of 3 or more assists – including NC State where he accomplished both feats (22 pts, 3 assists). Dion‚Äôs an incredible mismatch. He’s faster and more athletic than anybody big enough to guard him. Anyone fast enough to man him up, Dion treats like a rag doll.
The biggest change for Waiters is on the defensive end. A solid effort would be an upgrade from last year‚Äôs lackluster attempt at the championship end of the floor. Waiters not only is trying, but succeeding. He‚Äôs learned to jump passing lanes. He (along with all the other guards) has also become a much better individual on-ball defender. All three guards (4 if you count MCW) have been tremendous at applying ball pressure and denying penetration. They‚Äôve also done a much better job of defending the 3-point shot. The Orange is holding opponents to 31% from deep. Compare that to last year when Seton Hall shot 58% in the Dome, en route to a 22-point win.
Which brings us back to tonight as the Pirates return to snowy Syracuse. Kris Joseph may lead the team in scoring, but undoubtedly Waiters is the biggest impact player SU has. And he‚Äôs angry. But if you‚Äôre an Orange fan don‚Äôt worry, you‚Äôll actually like him like that.
Posted: Craig Hoffman