INDEPENDENCE, Ohio The Cavaliers found a running mate for Kyrie Irving, just not the expected one.
Unable to make a trade and move up in the NBA draft, the club chose Syracuse shooting guard Dion Waiters with the No. 4 overall pick, a somewhat surprising 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. When it was Clevelands turn on the clock, the passed on taking Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson and North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes for Waiters.
Its 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.
Later in the draft, the Boston Celtics chose Syracuse center Fab Melo with the 22nd pick and Orange forward Kris Joseph at No. 51.
The Cavaliers desperately needed a wing scorer and a complementary piece for Irving, last years No. 1 overall pick who didnt disappoint this season and was named the leagues rookie of the year. Waiters should take some of the scoring burden off Irving.
The Cavs envision the Irving-Waiters combo as their starting backcourt for years.
The selection of Waiters didnt sit well with some of the fans attending the teams draft party at Quicken Loans Arena.
Waiters never started a game in his college career, yet became a lottery pick after accepting and then excelling in his role off the bench. He bristled at his reserve role during his freshman year and at times chafed at Syracuse coach Jim Boeheims criticism.
But he resisted thoughts of transferring following his freshman year and last season, Waiters averaged 12.6 points in just 24.1 minutes per game and was named the Big Easts Sixth Man of the Year.
The gift and the curse, said Waiters, describing his freshman and sophomore years. My freshman year, I had a down year. I had thoughts about leaving. I never went through what coach Boeheim did. He gave me tough love. He turned me into the man I am today. He let me know I had to work hard and everythings not given.
At 6-foot-4, and a stocky 221 pounds, hes not afraid to drive to the basket and many feel hes already got a pro-ready game. Boeheim has compared Waiters playing style to that of a young Dwyane Wade.
Only four players in Syracuse history have been drafted higher than Waiters at No. 4 – Derrick Coleman (No. 1 to New Jersey in 1990), Dave Bing (No. 2 to Detroit in 1966), Billy Owens (No. 3 to Sacramento in 1991) and Carmelo Anthony (No. 3 to Denver in 2003).
Waiters is the sixth Syracuse player taken in the lottery portion of the NBA draft, joining Owens, Coleman, Anthony, Wesley Johnson and Jonny Flynn.
A talented defender and shot blocker, Melo was the second big man chosen by Boston. They also had the 21st pick, which they used to take Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger. Bostons second-round pick is the 51st overall.
Melo led Syracuse with 5.8 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game while averaging 7.8 points per game last season but missed the NCAA tournament because of academic issues. The 7-0, 255-pound Melo played sparingly as a freshman but was named Big East defensive player of the year as a sophomore when he set a school record with 10 blocks against Seton Hall.