Monday, Apr 23, 2018
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Cavaliers pick Waiters, trade for rights to Zeller


Dion Waiters stands with NBA commissioner David Stern after being picked by the Cavaliers with the fourth pick of Thursday's draft.


INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- The Cavaliers found a running mate for Kyrie Irving, just not the expected one.

Dion Waiters was a surprise.

Needing a scorer to support Irving, the Cavs chose the Syracuse shooting guard Thursday night with the No. 4 overall pick, a somewhat stunning selection after signs in recent days pointed toward the club coveting Florida guard Bradley Beal, who went to Washington at No. 3.

The Cavs discussed a trade with Charlotte to move up to No. 2, but a deal never materialized, and the Bobcats took Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. When it was Cleveland's turn on the clock, the club passed on taking North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes and nabbed Waiters.

In two drafts, the Cavs have rebuilt a backcourt they hope stays together for years.

"I've known him for a long time," Waiters said of Irving. "I can't wait to get out there with him. I'm very excited. I wish it started tomorrow."

It's the second year in a row that Cleveland general manager Chris Grant has shaken up the top of the draft. Last year, he took forward Tristan Thompson with the fourth pick, much earlier than experts predicted. But Thompson proved to be a solid choice, and the Cavs hope they have the same luck with Waiters.

The club desperately needed a wing scorer and a complementary piece for Irving, last year's No. 1 overall pick who didn't disappoint this season and was named rookie of the year. Waiters should take some of the scoring burden off Irving, and he doesn't appear to lack any confidence.

"I'm an all-around player," he said on a conference call when asked to describe his game. "I feel like I don't have any weaknesses."

The selection of Waiters didn't sit well with some of the fans attending the team's draft party at Quicken Loans Arena. Waiters didn't receive the same publicity as other players at the top of the draft board, but that didn't dissuade the Cavs.

Later in the first round, the Cavs acquired 7-foot center Tyler Zeller from Dallas in exchange for the No. 24 overall pick and two second-round selections (Nos. 33 and 34). The Mavericks selected Zeller at No. 17 before shipping his rights to Cleveland.

As a senior, Zeller averaged 16.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks a game last season for the Tar Heels. He was the fourth North Carolina player selected in the first 17 picks. Zeller played in 117 games in college, and his game improved each season. He was voted the ACC's top player last season.

Waiters didn't start a single game last season for the Orange, averaging 12.6 points in 37 games. But at 6-foot-4, and a stocky 221 pounds, he's not afraid to drive to the basket, and many feel the Big East's top sixth man's already got a pro-ready game.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has compared Waiters' playing style to that of a young Dwyane Wade.

"He knows basketball," Waiters said of his former coach.

Waiters was a bit of a mystery man leading up to the draft.

After he was promised by a lottery team that they would take him, Waiters, on the advice of his agent, Rob Pelinka, packed up and left the league's combine in Chicago on the first day before he was measured, interviewed, or participated in a drill.

He didn't work out for any teams leading up to the draft.

Although Waiters wouldn't reveal which team made him the promise, he did say it wasn't the Cavaliers.

"I didn't even talk to Cleveland," he said. "I didn't even work out for Cleveland."

Waiters said he wasn't worried that skipping the combine would damage his stock.

"I believe in my agent," he said. "They've been in the game a long time, and they know what they're doing. They've got my best interest. Fortunately, it worked out for me."

The Cavs were on Waiters' trail all season. They scouted him extensively for months, and Grant attended a few of his games.

They already knew him well, and will get to know him even better.

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