Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Two rookie shooting guards who were drafted back-to-back in the 2012 NBA Draft clearly had the same New Year's resolution: make more shots.
That's what Dion Waiters of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards have done since the calendar flipped to January and it has led to improved fantasy value for both.
Waiters' progression has surprisingly come after he was benched in favor of C.J. Miles at the beginning of the month. When Cavaliers coach Byron Scott made the move, we predicted it would result in fewer minutes and fewer shots for Waiters. While both of those things have happened, it hasn't resulted in a statistical decline for Waiters. In fact, the opposite has occurred, with Waiters averaging 4.0 more points per game in seven games as a sub than he did as a starter.
Waiters is coming off a career-high 33 points on 12-of-18 shooting with five assists, three triples and six free throws in eight attempts, his fifth double- digit scoring effort in his last six games. Believe it or not, the one game in that stretch in which he scored in single figures was a spot start for Miles on Jan. 7 when Miles was dealing with a stiff back.
As a bench player, Waiters is averaging 18 points, 2.1 assists, 2.4 rebounds, 1.0 threes and an .871 free-throw percentage.
Beal has made a similar leap, averaging 17.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 2.3 threes in seven games this month.
Both players lived up to their position title in the first two months of the season, taking plenty of shots; it's just that not many of them went in.
Waiters attempted 14.7 shots per game through December, including 4.8 threes, but only made 36.3 percent from the field. Beal, meanwhile, took 11.9 per game in the same time frame, 4.2 from 3-point range, and made just 35.3 percent.
There were a lot of ugly shooting nights; both players made 50 percent or more of their shots just four times over the first two months. Meanwhile, Waiters made less than 40 percent in 15 games and Beal did it in 16 during that span.
The biggest difference between the Waiters of the first two months and the Waiters of January is fewer threes and more free throws. The Cavs rookie has attempted 2.9 threes and 4.4 free throws as a sub compared to 4.6 and 2.6 as a starter.
Beal hasn't changed much. He is still attempting more than 4.0 threes per game this month. The difference is that more are falling by a wide margin. The Wizards guard has drained 2.3 3-pointers per game in January compared to 1.1 in the first two months.
Beal and John Wall have also played extremely well together since the latter returned from a season-long absence two games ago. In 35 minutes together, Beal is averaging 19.5 points per 36 minutes on 50 percent shooting, including 67 percent shooting from 3-point range. We should see Beal continue to get plenty of playing time with Wall even when Jordan Crawford comes back from an ankle injury.
And Byron Scott said Tuesday that Waiters would continue to come off the bench for another few weeks, which normally wouldn't be good news for a player's fantasy value. In Waiters' case, though, it's a welcome assignment.