Kyrie Irving: Best Rookie Point Guard Since Chris Paul

Patrick ForteCorrespondent IJanuary 31, 2012

AUBURN HILLS, MI - DECEMBER 28:  Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers gets a shot off between Rodney Stuckey #3 and Greg Monroe #10 of the Detroit Pistons on December 28, 2011 at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

What do Kyrie Irving, John Wall and Derrick Rose all have in common?

All three were drafted with the number one overall pick in their respective NBA Drafts after playing in college for only one season. However, Irving stands above both Wall and Rose due to the fact that he is having a more impressive rookie season than either the flashy Wall or reigning MVP Rose.

That’s not to say that Irving will be a better player than either Rose or Wall. Wall has struggled thus far on a terrible Washington Wizards team, but he’s still a freak athlete with incredible talent. And to say only a quarter into his rookie year that Kyrie Irving will be better than Derrick Rose would be completely ludicrous. 

With that said, one has to go back to the 2005-2006 season where Chris Paul won Rookie of the Year honors—to find a point guard that has been as impressive as a rookie as Irving has for the Cleveland Cavaliers

That season, Paul led the then New Orleans-Oklahoma City Hornets to a 38-44 record—up 20 wins from the year before. He also averaged 16.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, while leading the team with 7.8 assists and 2.2 steals per game. Paul did all of this while averaging 36 minutes per game for the Hornets.

What Kyrie Irving has done this year has exceeded all expectations people had for him, even with him being the number one pick in the draft. Irving leads the Cavaliers in scoring and assists—averaging 17.9 points and 4.8 assists per contest. He’s also shooting over 50 percent from the field, which is very impressive for someone who takes jump shots. Irving is even playing incredibly efficiently posting a PER of 22.9, where 15 designates an average player. 

Irving is doing all of this while playing only slightly over 28 minutes per game. While he clearly deserves to be on the court longer, Cavaliers Coach Byron Scott also coached Paul as a rookie.  Clearly, he knows how to handle a rookie point guard. Irving’s minutes will increase over time. If he continues to play as he has, so should his numbers with increased playing time. 

It’s not just statistics that make Irving impressive. He’s clearly a leader on the floor. The Cavs trust him with the ball in his hands at the end of the game. He has come up clutch for the team—as evidenced by his game-winning layup against the Boston Celtics the other night. 

Irving also has the Cavaliers winning games. The team is well on their way to getting more wins than the 19 they had last year, even in this lockout-shortened season. 

While it's still early in the season, Kyrie Irving has been playing at an exceptionally high level. And it’s hard to find many point guards that have played as well as him in their rookie seasons.