A franchise could be a winner faster by drafting Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving over Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant. It may sound controversial, but it's actually the truth.
Right now, it appears like a ludicrous idea. Kevin Durant is a legit, young superstar who has two scoring titles and has his team positioned as a Western Conference favorite. Kyrie Irving is a rookie point guard just over halfway through his first season in the NBA whose superstar card has not yet been punched.
When picking between these two, it seems that the choice is obvious.
However, there is actually a lot more to this debate than a first glance would tell someone. Kyrie Irving would make a team a winner faster for a lot of reasons.
Among those reasons are the facts that Irving is more well rounded at a young age, that he helped a bad team be better immediately, and the position he plays on the floor.
The Positions Each Plays
The first thing that one should look at in determining how big an impact a player can have is the position they play.
Irving has a clear advantage in this department over Durant.
As the point guard, Irving has near complete control over the offense. Like a quarterback in football, he can spread the ball around and find out the best way to attack the opposing defense.
Durant plays the small forward, although that fact that he isn't a traditional small forward helps him in this area. He is not the tough, defender who rebounds that the small forward normally is.
He's a near 7-footer who can make any shot from any spot on the floor. However, he still doesn't quite have the effect on an offense that a playmaking, pure point guard does.
Irving has that effect.
More Well Rounded at an Earlier Point
If a comparison is made of the starts of each of these players' careers, Irving was clearly the more impressive player in his rookie season. That is especially true from the standpoint of well roundedness.
In the first half of his rookie year, Irving has averaged 18 points, five assists and between three and four rebounds per game. Durant averaged more points (20 ppg) and about one more rebound per game.
Irving also shot better from the field and from three-point range than Durant.
The edges that Durant had over Irving can be explained fairly easily, The slightly higher rebounding average is probably just because Durant is a forward while Irving is a point guard. The scoring advantage can be attributed to Durant shooting nearly three more times per game.
Really the only statistical advantage rookie Durant has over Irving is that he shot two percentage points higher from the free throw line.
A well-rounded player obviously helps a team win more than one that isn't as well rounded. Irving wins the battle of well roundedness.
Immediate Impact on Winning
The best look at whether a player can help a franchise win faster is whether or not that player actually did just that in his first season.
In Durant's first season, which was spent as a member of the Seattle Supersonics, his team went 20-62. The only team with a worse record was the Miami Heat.
This year, Irving's first in Cleveland, the Cavaliers are 14-23. Irving's team is on pace to win more games in a lockout-shortened season than Durant's did in a full 82-game schedule.
Irving's transformation of his team is even more impressive when two other factors are considered.
First, the Cavaliers finished last season with just 19 wins. Secondly, their 14 wins so far this season have them just three games out of the playoffs right now.
In Durant's first year, the Supersonics finished the season 31 games out of playoff contention. Yeah.
The facts are all there. Irving will help a franchise win faster. He's more well rounded at a young age. The position he plays on the court has a more profound effect on the entire team.
Plus, he's already shown just how much better he makes a team as an inexperienced rookie.
Considering these factors, you'd be a fool to take Kevin Durant over Kyrie Irving if you're looking to win faster and win now.