Transactions: The Dion Waiters Trade

New York trades Iman Shumpert and JR Smith to Cleveland for Louis Amundson, Alex Kirk, and 2019 second-round pick from Cleveland and Lance Thomas from Oklahoma City, which traded a 2014-15 protected first-round pick to Cleveland for Dion Waiters.

New York Waives Samuel Dalembert

This isn’t exactly an earth-shattering deal but it certainly makes some sense for every team involved.  For the Knicks, this is just a trade to clear some cap space (Smith has a player option for 2015-16 for $6.4 million that he will likely exercise) and get some value from Shumpert, who would certainly have signed elsewhere as a free agent after the season.  Also, while Smith hasn’t been a problem this year, there is always a risk that he might do something whacky as the Knicks’ season becomes ever more hopeless.

As for actual returns, both Amundson and Kirk are on one-year deals, so they are just salary slot place holders. Assuming they are not cut, both players are big and could replace Dalembert.  Amundson was once a decent enough live body but is now past his expiration date (age 32) and had really cratered this year.  Kirk is a blank slate rookie but he is tall and young (23).  His D-League numbers aren’t great but it is worth remembering that Amundson worked himself from D-League to league average starter for a a few years so maybe Kirk can do the same.  If any team should give minutes to a question mark like Kirk, New York is it.  As for the second-round pick acquired, this is just a little chit to show that the Knicks returned a little future value for this salary dump.

Turning to Dalembert…he was cut before his contract became fully guaranteed.  No sense having an expensive role player on a 5-win team.  The interesting question is whether Dalembert has anything left to help in the NBA.  Dalembert’s PER of 12.0 this year isn’t great but it actually undersells how disinterested and terrible he looked objectively when you watched him play.  On the plus side, Dalembert has always been prone to playing like he is sleepwalking only to emerge refreshed in a better situation.  Given this fact and his shot blocking ability expect Dalembert to get a shot on a contender looking for a decent backup center.

For Cleveland, Waiters never really fit.  As a ball-dominant and inefficient two-guard, he didn’t mesh with Kyrie Irving before LeBron came to town.  Now with even several more scorers in Cleveland than in the past, Waiters really looks unnecessary.  His three-point shooting, which had creeped up to adequate last year, has tanked to .256%, the worst of any regular player on the team (as an aside, A.J. Price has managed to shoot 0-11 from three this year).  Take away Waiters’ three-point shooting, and the team average rises 11 points from .355% to .345%.

On top of Waiters’ shooting issues, the Cavs defense has really dragged it down (they are currently 22nd in defensive efficiency versus 6th in offense).  Waiters may not be the reason for the bad defense (the front court appears to be a much bigger issue) but by getting Smith (for shooting) and Shumpert (for defense), the Cavs get role players that have demonstrated ability in both fronts and should complement the stars much better.  Smith is streaky but, even in his worst stretches, shoots better than Waiters from the outside.  There will be palpable improvement for Cleveland and the hope is that it spurs the Cavs into becoming a better team on both ends.  I don’t think this will turn Cleveland into a 55-win team but it is a step in the right direction.  (Defensive big men are still very much needed here.  Maybe if someone wakes up Dalembert, he could help).

OKC’s end of the deal is also evident.  They want a potential scoring option off the bench, as well as in case of injuries to the big stars.  Basically, the Thunder want what James Harden brought a few years ago.  Jeremy Lamb was supposed to fill the role but Scott Brooks has buried him in frustration the last month (hasn’t scored double figures since December 7th).  Lamb and Waiters are about the same age and Lamb’s advanced stats are a little better (bolstered by surprisingly solid rebounding) but he has not shown himself to be a great shot creator.  The Thunder will take a flier on Waiters and hope that he can become the answer off the bench.  Waiters looks more athletic and he is the classic “redraft candidate” that John Hollinger wrote about, where a team gives a disappointing lottery pick, another shot.  It is anyone’s guess if Waiters excels in this role but the cost was low and the reward potentially high.

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