Cleveland Cavaliers: 4 Reasons to Believe Kyrie Irving Is Better Than LeBron
After the last remaining embers from the burned LeBron James' jerseys reached a temperature cool enough to touch in the Summer of 2010, the smoke cleared—to expose the hollowness on the horizon for Cleveland and its basketball team.
That hollow feeling lasted for far-less time than most could have imagined, as practically a year to the day after LeBron left—Kyrie Irving arrived as the first-overall pick by the Cavaliers in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Since his arrival in Cleveland, Irving, who played in all of 11 games at Duke University, has superseded expectations with his Rookie of the Year-worthy play—and even quelled any desire towards reminisces of the recent LeBron era.
This not only served as notice on the respect that Irving is quickly garnering only halfway into his rookie campaign, but also was another potential hint from James—who to date has not gotten to run with a true and talented point guard.
This last inference would depend of course, on your desire to let your imagination fathom such possibilities—which represents a part of the imagination that many Cleveland fans are surely unwilling to unlock—just yet.
Nonetheless, Irving has not only asserted his significant presence during his short time in the league, he has convinced Cavs' fans that not only is their life after LeBron—but the Kyrie Irving era is one that could prove to be a very successful one for the team and city.
As such, here are five assertions as to why Irving is the better fit for the team.
True Point Guards Are Hard to Find
After the center position, the most coveted and seemingly allusive role to fill on an NBA team is a dominant and true point guard. This is not only the case from a historical standpoint, but also in the current context of the league.
Theoretically through the draft or free agency, the Cavaliers could have acquired a small forward post-LeBron, who while not the equivalent of James—of which there is no one—would at least prove serviceable.
Yet to not only win the lottery, but do it in a draft where a dominant point guard was on the board, was a coup that could not have been conceived. There are detractors that may hesitate to label Irving a “true” point guard—using the argument that he is a score-first, pass-second type of point guard.
However, this description is more fitting of the new true NBA point guard. Similar to a player like Chris Paul, Irving possesses the ability to stretch the floor and find creative ways to score—as well as dish when an opening exists.
And on a young team like the Cavaliers, that are currently trying to find their identity as well as players who can score consistently at the NBA level—Irving's abilities as a scoring point guard are in demand for the time being.
He Doesn't Have to Be the Next LeBron Just the First Kyrie
The pressure is off of Irving in one aspect of this contemplative debate to James, in that no one expects him to be another LeBron—just the best Kyrie possible.
There are few if any, globally, that can compete with James in terms of pure basketball talent. His abilities transcend eras and are revolutionary by league standards.
With this in mind, Irving does not have to replace James, but rather continue about the business of quietly establishing his reputation and providing exciting basketball in Cleveland—while the franchise continues to reassemble a winning product.
In this area, he is also going to prove to be functional bait to those free agents contemplating what it would be like to play with a point guard with the talents that Irving possesses.
Prodigal Son Status Not Applicable
Kyrie Irving was born in Melbourne, Australia, which is about a full-day's plane trip away from Akron, Ohio.
He has none of the additional "homegrown son saves the hometown franchise" sized expectations, although LeBron made a completely admirable attempt to honor—ultimately proved too burdensome for even his broad shoulders to bear.
Among any of the potential pressures that coincide with following an era like the one James ignited, having to live up to an in-state born reputation as massive as James'—is not relevant to Irving.
A freedom that already provides separation between the two in a major way, as this added pressure, accentuated the lack of NBA Title results from the former King in his Cleveland reign.
His Rookie Campaign Is Already Better
Considering that he only played in 11 games as a collegiate player at Duke, his first NBA season happened to be shortened by the lockout. In addition to inheriting a team that was abominable the year before, Irving has reason to be less than effective.
Yet, in a statistical comparison between Irving and James at similar points in their rookie seasons—Irving is the more impressive player.
After 22 games, longtime Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist, Bill Livingston highlighted the ways that Irving is bettering James' first year as a Cavalier.
Not only is he shooting a higher percentage from beyond the arc, 41 percent, than James' overall field-goal percentage of 39 percent at the same point in his rookie year—but Irving is shooting an uncanny 50 percent from the field as well. And he happens to be averaging more points per game, at 18.1, than LeBron's 16.1 during the same stretch of games as a rookie.
However, all the individual stats pale in comparative terms to the most important measurement—Irving's Cavs won three more games at 9-13 than James' Cavs at 6-16, after 22 games.
Of course it will be difficult for Irving to sustain such sparkling numbers throughout the duration of this season, but when considering few would have believed it possible for Irving to be on par, even at this juncture with James—it makes his feats to date more impressive in comparison.