Cleveland Cavaliers: Why Cavs Are Better off with Kyrie Irving Than LeBron James
The self-proclaimed king led them to four 50-win seasons and an Eastern Conference championship in 2007 while being named the league's Most Valuable Player twice in the process.
His seven-year tenure was unforgettable to say the least.
But as we all know, the Akron native left Cavs fans in shock and disbelief as he announced he would take his talents to South Beach in the summer of 2010 to play for the Miami Heat. This move instantly changed the franchise's status around the league from title contender to laughing stock.
And with that, the future of wine and gold basketball became more promising than ever before.
Irving was sensational in his sole season with the club, posting averages of 18.5 points, 5.4 assists and 3.7 boards per game while shooting 46.9 percent from the floor and just a hair below 40 percent from three-point distance. He was eventually named Kia Rookie of the Year.
There's no need to say, however, that there's a large talent disparity between the two former No. 1 picks. After all, it's hard to compare anyone to arguably the best talent in the history of the game, let alone a 6'3" average athlete with only one year of professional experience.
Regardless, the Cavs will have a chance to be an even better team with Irving at the helm instead of LeBron.
First and foremost, the Cavs will have the assets to add a better supporting cast around Irving than they could for LeBron.
From 2004 through 2010, the team had a grand total of one lottery pick—10th overall in 2004—which was wasted on Luke Jackson. They were still suffering setbacks from poor moves made by a previous front office, causing them to have a scarcity of selections.
In addition to the No. 1 last year which gave them the rights to Irving, the franchise has already had two additional top-five picks in the early stages of the new era. The current management understands the necessity of building through the draft in a city that cannot attract top-flight free agents on its own.
The team also has much more financial stability now than they've had in years. This will be beneficial in adding key role players and potential starters to fill out the roster through free agency.
However, the front office needs to know how to use these assets wisely.
The only time in the LeBron years that the Cavs had a significant amount of money to spend, former general manager Danny Ferry went ahead and blew it all on Larry Hughes.
Hughes was coming off a great season with the Wizards, but the red flags were there. He was a giant risk given his injury history and inconsistent jump shot.
Regardless, the team inked him to a five-year, $70 million dollar contract.
He ended up stinking, and this move tied the franchise down financially for years.
The new man in charge of roster decisions, Chris Grant, was a part of Ferry's old crew. He experienced these mistakes firsthand and has surely learned from them.
It will be put to the test this offseason, though, as the injury-prone Eric Gordon and Brook Lopez will hit the market as restricted free agents. Grant and company will have an opportunity to sign them to near-max deals and steal them away from their current teams.
Or, they could take the safer route and go after some of these players.
Time will tell for sure, but I feel much more confident in management now than ever before in the past.
The "Clutch" Factor
When games are close down the stretch, championship teams have a go-to player they can rely on to get them crucial baskets.
And according to 82games.com, there was no player more clutch last year than Kyrie Irving. Irving averaged an incredible 56.4 points per 48 minutes of "clutch time."
His killer instinct was highlighted in games against Boston and Denver—where he hit game-winning layups in the final seconds of each contest—and Sacramento—where he nailed two crucial free throws to seal the victory.
LeBron wasn't even close in the rankings, coming in at 17th on the list with 33.2 points per 48 minutes of these same situations.
The Duke rookie may just be more cold blooded than the three-time MVP.
The NBA is undergoing a power shift.
We once had a game that was dominated by big men. But the years of Kareem, Wilt and Russell are long gone.
Point guard is now becoming the most important position in the league. And great ones are rare to come by.
For a player to be placed in this category, he needs to be a floor general—someone capable of being a leader and giving their teammates directions on the court.
He also must be able to get his teammates involved in the game, have an ability to score the basketball and keep his composure at all times.
Irving represents all these things and more and has an opportunity to join an elite class amongst players of this position; one that is shared by very few others.
The biggest problem in the previous era of Cavs basketball was not having a true point guard to place next to LeBron.
They tried giving the responsibility to Larry Hughes. Fail.
Damon Jones? Nope.
Maybe Mo Williams could do the job? Nah.
The Cavs now have one of the top options in the league here, and the other spots should be easier to fill.
These players have some of the smoothest mid-range games in the history of the game.
Irving is not at that category yet. He shot just 39 percent on attempts between 10-23 feet according to HoopData.com.
But given his excellent ability to knock down three-pointers and free throws, along with his great ball-handling skills and reportedly excellent work ethic, it should be only a matter of time before he'll be considered in the same mold.
LeBron, on the other hand, shot an even worse 35 percent on attempts in the same range during his rookie year. While he may be a phenomenal scorer, the mid-range game is not his forte.
This is becoming a lost art in the league but clearly holds significant value.
Less of an Ego
One of the cockiest and most selfish moves in the history of sports. A gigantic slap in the face to the city of Cleveland on national television.
But what more can we expect from an egomaniac like LeBron?
All indications thus far show that Irving is the opposite. He seems to be a humble person in every sense of the term.
The rookie could care less about personal statistics or accolades. He's willing to share the spotlight in order to get wins.
And personally, that's something I prefer in the Cavs locker room.