Cavalier Film Room: The D-Waiters Zone and Stale Inbound Plays

WFNY Cavaliers Film Room

When we last gathered in the film room, we talked about the Cavaliers’ woes on the defensive glass. This week, we’re going to look no further than last night’s comeback effort that just fell short against the Indiana Pacers and the role Dion Waiters played in it. We’ll also look at that final failed inbound play. As always, if you have a player or recurring theme that you think I should take a more in-depth look at, feel free to contact me at

WFNY Cavaliers Film Room The Cavaliers faced the Indiana Pacers last night without Kyrie Irving or Jarrett Jack, and as would be expected, they lost. What wasn’t expected, however, was the wine and gold rallying from 16 points down to briefly take the lead and lose a heart-breaker by 4 points, 82-78. Dion Waiters took over the game for a short stretch, scoring 12 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter and dishing out a couple of key crunch-time assists. Let’s take a look at what the D-Waiters Zone looked like, and talk about how Dion can live in there more often.

Here, we see Dion guarded by Danny Granger on the left wing early in the shot clock. He wastes no time as the side clears out and he tries to take Granger 1-on-1 going left, his preferred direction.


Here, we see Waiters create a little bit of separation by pushing his way into Granger’s chest. This is something we don’t see a lot of from Dion. Any offensive foul that he picks up is primarily on a drive-and-kick scenario where he leaves his feet and plows the defender on the pass.


But, you see what it gets him, an open look at a mid-range jumper which he drains to start his scoring run.


About a minute later, we see more early offense from Waiters and the Cavs. Right down the floor, Anderson Varejao sets a screen at the three-point arc for Dion. 


The Pacers don’t have the same philosophy in pick-and-roll defense as the Cavaliers do. Instead of Roy Hibbert showing and cutting off Dion’s progress toward the basket, he’ll allow him to drive toward him because of his shot-blocking prowess.

But, Waiters beats that by pulling up again from mid-range and drilling the shot.

Waiters is clearly in his self-named zone right now, but Hibbert still doesn’t come out to fully contest his mid-range shot attempts. Here’s another screen set by Varejao early in the offense. Because of the offensive spacing and the well-set pick, Waiters has all the room he needs.


Hibbert is late to contest, and Waiters rings it up yet again. While mid-range is statistically the least efficient shot you can take, it’s Dion’s bread and butter. In fact, Dion’s effective field goal percentage from 15-24 feet is better than his conversion rate from five feet and in.

Here, we see the wine and gold push the ball up the court in transition, led by Matthew Dellavedova. There’s good spacing with Tristan Thompson as the trailer and Dion Waiters settting up on the left wing. Delly passes it to Waiters early enough for him to get in scoring position before the defense sets.

Waiters confidently rises and drills it over Lance Stephenson. I think the Cavaliers, especially without Andrew Bynum, need to look to push the ball more. When you’re matched up with as good of a halfcourt defense as Indiana’s, you should look to run, take good early shots, and draw fouls on the run as much as possible.

Now, let’s look at Dion effecively drive and dish after he set it up with his scoring binge. We see a pick set by Tristan much higher than usually, a few feet beyond the three-point arc.

With Indiana’s strategy to have their big men hang back, David West cautiously steps out to stop Waiters. He responds by blowing right by him and the screened Stephenson. Take a look at Anderson Varejao, standing out in the right corner. Watch what happens as Waiters breaks through and forces Hibbert to show.

Dion drives and draws Hibbert, dishing to Varejao, who is one of the best at slipping in late in the post and finding a crease to score and finish at the rim.

Hibbert still recovers in time to partially contest the shot, but credit Andy as he powers through and slams it home with his right hand.

With under one minute to play, the Cavaliers ran a Dion and Andy pick-and-roll on the left side of the floor.

Waiters uses the pick effectively and for the second time, creates space against Granger with his right shoulder. It’s a 2-on-1 scenario at this point with the Cavaliers’ offensive spacing.

Waiters does a great job at waiting until the very last second to toss it to Varejao. 

Again, Hibbert recovers to challenge, and he’s a little bit closer this time. So, Varejao takes it to the other side of the rim and slams it home, using the rim to protect against the blocked shot.

With 43 seconds to go, the Cavaliers set up down two to either tie or take the lead. They danced with what got them there, the Waiters and Varejao pick-and-roll. Instead of picking a side, Andy comes out high above the top of the key and sets his pick.

Waiters gets initial space and then heads to the basket with Hibbert draping him.

Dion dribbles out of it and back out to the top, but before he does, you’ll see Matthew Dellavedova open in the corner. 

Dion takes a long three pointer after dribbling back out and misfires.

The Cavaliers grab the offensive board, though, and after calling a timeout, they have 20 seconds left and are down just two. In this scenario, against a much better team, I would have went for the win, but you’ll see the Cavs played for OT. Waiters starts his drive right on elite defender Paul George, who is taking away any possibility of going left.

Dion gets by George, but Hibbert’s waiting for him, and Andy doesn’t have the same angle to score as before with all of the length surrounding Dion.

Dion tries to go up and under, but Hibbert’s size and length are just too much and he defends the shot well without fouling.



You will see below that the Pacers should’ve been called for the shove of Varejao under the basket, the same call the officials made against the Cavaliers about half a dozen times earlier in the game.


George Hill gives Andy the hip check as he goes up for the offensive rebound that he likely would have secured.


And, to the surprise of nobody, Varejao ends up horizontal.

Let’s finally look at that ill-fated inbound play, drawn up by Mike Brown. Dellavedova is the inbounder with Waiters and Earl Clark low in the key and C.J. Miles and Varejao up high.


Andy screens across for Miles, who flashes away from the ball. Waiters picks across for Clark who flashes to the nearside corner.


Miles and Varejao screen down on a staggered double pick for Waiters, who curls around toward the top of the key to receive the ball. Clark’s open in the corner, but they don’t want to go to him unless it’s a last resort.


Dion isn’t open on the curl because of the wise way that George and the Pacers overplay that flash point. We’re nearing five seconds, and both Waiters and Miles flash desperately to the ball, but it’s far too late. Delly has to inbound it to Clark.


The problem, of course, is that Earl Clark is inexplicably and bone-headedly standing on the sideline. I don’t know where to begin. First, let’s start with the decision to call unnecessary back to back timeouts by Brown, eliminating Delly’s out on that garbage inbound with the Cavaliers having no timeouts left. Second, let’s mention bringing Earl Clark back out on the floor after he had not played for several minutes. Compound that with the fact that he had a mental error in the BOSTON game where he got the ball inbounded into him and didn’t get a shot off in time!

Finally, let’s go back to the out of bounds play once more. According to our own Scott Sargent, the Cavaliers have two such plays to go for a three pointer. It’s obvious that the Pacers either knew this play or just guessed properly. Having only one apparent target (Waiters curling high) is not a plan for success. They need to have at least two ball handlers flash TOWARD the ball earlier in the play. Doing so up against the five count doesn’t do any good. Instead of Miles flashing away to start action for a double screen, that should’ve been Clark’s role. Mike Brown said that exact group had not practiced the play, but again, that goes back to coaching and having your team prepared. If my high school team could have three or four sideline inbound plays with an option for each player to receive the ball, I’d like to think a NBA team could manage that as well. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Brown’s end of game offensive X’s and O’s called into question, and it certainly won’t be the last.

Until next time, the film room is closed!

  • Pat Leonard

    So many things to say after this great post (nicely done Kirk):

    First, that inbound play was garbage from the start. Yes Earl Clark is a moron for stepping out of bounds, but look at the timing of the pass. If Clark is going to be an option, he should be the FIRST option due to when he was breaking towards the sideline since Waiters’ cut is the one that takes longer to develop. Even if he was the first option, do you really want Earl Clark flashing towards the sideline, catching the ball, then having to turn around 180 degrees to jack up a shot? That’s not a rhythm shot. So basically this play, by design, leaves Dion as the only option. Considering that the Pacers knew he was the one the Cavs would want to shoot the ball, the overplay by George isn’t just likely, it should be expected.

    Why is Mike Brown still the one to draw up the inbounds plays? I don’t believe I’ve ever seen another coach on the staff do it (except for when Brown was ejected). The Cavs have been terrible at scoring after timeouts and yet Brown keeps inexplicably calling his own number. Pride. Too much %#@!#%^ pride. If we’re going to say that it doesn’t matter because the Cavs only have 3-4 inbounds plays anyway, then I think that’s still a fault. You can have the same inbounds set, but run multiple looks out of the set that are drawn up on the fly by the coach. That’s how it should be done.

    Waiters still plays too much hero ball for my liking. I mentioned this to Kirk on Twitter last night, and he did a good job of showing the two beautiful 4th quarter passes that Waiters had to Varejao, but I see these situations as Dion saying “Oh crap, I dribbled into trouble… oh there’s Andy, phew!”. Too many scenarios where Dion makes the wrong decision with the ball, and it’s a selfish decision. Your plan is to drive past your defender to get to where (soon-to-be) defensive player of the year Roy Hibbert is waiting to block the shot? Really? Also, on that play where Waiters drove into the paint, dribbled out of trouble back up to the 3-point line, and then turned around and jacked up a 3-point shot… he had an easy pass to Delly on the wing for a wide open three. As I said earlier w/ Clark on the inbounds play, any time you are having to make a 180 degree turn to immediately put up a shot makes for a REALLY tough shot.

    So I guess that’ll about do it for my complaining about the Cavs, but all of those things were making me angry last night. This is a poorly-coached team. No way to say otherwise.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    “Poorly coached team” I was hoping this time would be different but you are 110% correct. There is to much talent on this team for it to be this bad. Bennett should never have been the draft pick because he needed real life coaching and poor Karasev never sees the court. Reminds me of the days of Shannon Brown and other rookies under the guides of Mike Brown.

    This redo is failing miserably for Napoleon Gilbert. And Earl Clark, two words: u-gh. Before he stepped out on the inbound play I thought his basketball IQ was low but now I think it’s extremely low.

  • mgbode

    sadly, this is the first NBA season in a long time that I have watched more non-Cavs basketball than Cavs basketball. I just don’t know what this team even WANTS to become let alone what they will become.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I keep hoping for some small sliver of Gasol news but it’s not looking like it will happen. Most likely they’ll just release him. I won’t be surprised if he ends up in Miami with his passion rekindled all of a sudden or something to that effect.

  • mgbode

    He and Oden can sit on the bench during games and talk about what might have been.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Wishful thinking I can’t help but think even the headcase known as Andrew Bynum could figure it out long enough in order to get another ring. Meanwhile back in Cleveland, ugh, nevermind.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I answered my own Gasol trade ?s here:

    Greedy Lakers as if helping you avoid the repeater tax by slashing a whopping $20M off your salaries wasn’t enough. I guess the fact that they could bring Gasol back (if they loved him so much) with a new deal in the off-season.

    Maybe Utah will do the Jefferson and a rack of casino chips but then again the way that write up reads it’s doubtful.

  • Pat Leonard

    I can’t figure it out either… the last three games have seen the Cavs play much better defense, but is that really a trend we will continue to see? They have had other stretches of both good offense and good defense this season that didn’t hold true.

  • mgbode

    the Pacer game didn’t even seem as much good defense as it did Indiana being overly careful as they knew we didn’t have the guns to mount a real attack. sort of how the Ravens have not done too much on offense in alot of the games against the Browns because they trusted their defense and didn’t want to do anything to lose the game.

  • Pat Leonard

    Good point… actually, I do think some of it was quality defense from the Cavs. Delly was really hounding Paul George to the point that George got annoyed and mouthed off to the media about him. It was kind of a funny statement… sort of along the lines of “that guy just tries too hard.”

  • mgbode

    yes, he was definitely giving a ton of effort (as always). was speaking in a more general view of the game.

    and, gotta love when stars complain about the nobodies :)

  • Pat Leonard

    BTW (and I wish other people would see this to comment as I’ve heard it too often lately), at what point do we (as Cavs fans in general) stop pretending that Matthew Dellavedova isn’t just a good player for the Cavs, but he’s just flat-out a good player? I listened to Craig and Andrew on the podcast and they both just kind of blew off the idea that Dellavedova could start for any other team. Is there something inherently wrong with having to play a guy who is a lock-down defender, shoots 45% from the 3-point line, and has an eFG of 56% and TS of 59%? Oh, and I forgot to mention… is only going to get better because HE’S A ROOKIE. If the Cavs take Delly with the 17th pick instead of Karasev, sure there’s probably a riot on draft day amongst Cavs fans, but by this point in the season all we’d hear about is how good of a pick that was for Grant. For some reason, the fact that he went undrafted actually lowers his value as it pertains to the season he’s putting together. It’s mind-boggling… there are a million reasons to kill Chris Grant, but he should be commended for getting this player.

  • WFNYKirk

    It’s getting more and more difficult to deny, Shamrock. If they’re going for wins, they’re failing, so they might as well be giving Bennett and Karasev more minutes.

  • WFNYKirk

    Great point, Pat. I think Grant deserves credit for finding Delly after the draft chips settled. His impact and contributions shouldn’t be scoffed at because he’s a hard-working player.

  • mgbode

    yes, he should definitely be commended. i’m not sure he’s a starting player with his current skillset, but i’m willing to be convinced as he develops.

    i think, at best, he becomes Tony Allen. of course, who doesn’t love watching Tony Allen play baskeball?

  • Pat Leonard

    I like the comparison on the defensive end (not a lot of athleticism, but a lot of effort), but I think he can be better than Tony Allen in the sense that I think he can be a much better 3-point shooter. I always thought Allen was at least a respectable three-point shooter, but it turns out he’s not… career 26%. Yuck. Actually Bruce Bowen may end up being a better comparison, what do you think?

  • mgbode

    yeah, Tony’s points come at the rim. Bowen is a better top-end comparison due to the offensive nature. Delly isn’t as stout (at least currently), but he’s still the potential 3&D guy we need.

  • Pat Leonard

    Then it’s agreed… we’ll get way ahead of ourselves and start calling him Matthew Della-Bowen from this point forward. Excellent.

  • mgbode

    as long as we get to call it the Triple-D Defense when Delly, Dion and Deng are on the court together, I’m good.

  • Pat Leonard

    Let us celebrate our arrangement with the adding of chocolate to milk.

  • mgbode

    we get a pool too? sweeeeeeeeettttttt.

  • Meeks

    great job, but you called paul george granger in 1 of the plays up above. PG cant even guard dion.. this is how underrated dion is.

    and people hated on the dion pick… and most still do, ignorantly, of course.