Former Syracuse Orange guard Dion Waiters is coming off his best series in the NBA postseason. That's mostly (read: entirely) because it was his first playoff series in his four-year NBA career.
It would be an understatement to say it's been a turbulent year for the Philadelphia native. He started the season scoring in double figures only once in six games before dropping a season-high 25 points on Washington two games later. He then hit a stretch in late December and early January where he'd score in double-figures in only two of twelve games but then scored 56 points across his next three. Adding to the mixed bag of a year, in early March it was announced that his brother was killed back home in Philadelphia. Talk about a volatile season.
Despite the ups and downs and averaging a career-low in points, Waiters has shown maturity both on and off the floor and has truly evolved since his humble and hungry days on the hill. In an interview with NBA.com, he was able to articulate how his understanding of the game has grown.
"It's a good shot when you're open, but a great shot if you're open but you've got a guy open in the corner and the defender in between comes to you and you kick it to him. Or if you make the hockey assist or get an assist."
Wait, did Dion Waiters just say that? He did. Just in that anecdote alone you get a sense of how Waiters' basketball IQ has blossomed. And sometimes, in a quite literal sense, it is in giving that we receive. "Sometimes you even make a pass, get the guy an open shot, and it might come right back," Waiters -- who was never bashful shooting the ball at Syracuse -- continued.
In Oklahoma City's last three wins against the Mavericks, Waiters has scored 19, 12 and 11 points respectively. He's accomplished this by going 8-of-15 from downtown and a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe all while dishing out eight helpers over the three-game stretch.
Asked if this was a sort of graduation after completing his fourth year in the league, Waiters responded, "That's exactly it. I'm ready to take off. But we have to focus on the task at hand right now. That's my whole thing, I'm ready for that step. That's what it is man. I know what it takes."
Although he never received his degree from Syracuse University, Waiters' NBA graduation year has served as a rite of passage. Good morning.