Kyrie Irving was a top-five high-school recruit by Rivals, Scout and ESPN. Irving committed to Duke to play his collegiate ball, but suffered a ligament injury in his toe that limited him to just eight regular-season games.
Irving underwent rigorous rehab and made it back to the court for the NCAA Tournament, only to see his Blue Devils eliminated in the Sweet 16 despite his 28-point, one-turnover effort.
The following should demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the Cavaliers have an absolute star in the making for the next decade plus.
The Cleveland Cavaliers currently sit at a dismal 17-35. Although they won't be in serious contention for the No. 1 pick (again), they are likely to land a top-five selection.
The Cavaliers roster is, quite frankly, inauspicious. Just how bad is it?
Last game, Luke Walton played 18 minutes for the Cavs. The only time Luke Walton should appear on TV for 18 minutes is if he inexplicably finds himself married to the next desperate Kardashian sister.
Despite the talent ineptitude permeating the Cleveland locker room, Irving is averaging 18.8 PPG, 5.7 APG and 3.9 RPG. He turned 20 years old two weeks ago.
Using John Hollinger's ever-popular PER system for rating players, Kyrie has a 21.31 rating—good for sixth among NBA point guards. However, for a more accurate look at Kyrie's accomplishments to date, it would seem logical to compare his PER with other notable point guards in their respective rookie seasons. Let's give that a whirl, shall we?
The following list contains five premier NBA point guards and their PER in their first season as a primary starter:
Remember, Kyrie has a sparkling PER of 21.31. Not bad.
There's more than that, though. Heading over to 82games.com to check out sortable clutch stats among NBA players reveals that Irving has the highest per-48 point total in the NBA.
Clutch time is defined as the final five minutes of the 4th quarter and overtime in games decided by five points or less. If you were to take Kyrie's numbers and average them out over the length of an entire basketball game, he would be averaging 56.4 points per contest.
Kevin Durant is second in the NBA and nearly two three-pointers behind Kyrie at 50.8 points.
While one could bring up the aforementioned porous roster as the reason behind Kyrie's lead, it must also be considered that every team in the league knows Irving is getting the ball down the stretch.
Cleveland is so thin at scoring options and even thinner at players who can go one-on-one. Opponents know Kyrie is going to get the call, and he still scores.
In the last five years, these are the leading clutch scorers in the NBA (points projected over 48 minutes):
2011-2012, Kyrie Irving: 56.4 points
2010-2011: Kobe Bryant: 49.8 points
2009-2010: LeBron James: 66.1 points
2008-2009: Kobe Bryant: 56.7 points
2007-2008: LeBron James: 56.0 points
That's pretty good company. Now, let's expand those statistics:
2011-2012, Kyrie Irving: 56.4 points, .544 FG%, 89% FT.
2010-2011: Kobe Bryant: 49.8 points, .402 FG%, 87% FT.
2009-2010: LeBron James: 66.1 points, .488 FG%, 80% FT.
2008-2009: Kobe Bryant: 56.7 points, .457 FG%, 92% FT.
2007-2008: LeBron James: 56.0 points, .475 FG%, 79% FT.
That's even better.
Now, going back to focusing on this season, let's highlight a few more observations about Kyrie in the clutch:
- He has the highest field-goal percentage of any player who averages over 20 field-goal attempts per 48 minutes (35 players).
- He's shooting higher from the charity stripe than Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Paul Pierce, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love.
- Oh, and he's getting to the free throw line more than any player in the league. Nearly 18 times per 48 minutes.
Basically, Kyrie Irving is an outstanding shooter and penetrater with elite elusiveness, jaw-dropping ball handling capabilities and two eyes in the back of his head. He stacks up extremely well with other star NBA point guards in their rookie season and has immediately elevated himself as a scary good finisher.
Media members around the country have harped on LeBron's lack of clutch play over the years, stating over and over that he simply doesn't have the grit and heart to finish games when the going gets tough.
Well, if LeBron is the Jane of clutch moments, Kyrie is introducing himself to the NBA as Tarzan.
You can't teach killer instinct, but you can observe it. Simply turn on a Cleveland Cavaliers game and watch No. 2.