Kyrie Irving is one season away from becoming the best point guard in the NBA.
At worst, the twenty-year old will open next season as the league's 8th best point guard. But, by the time the 2013-14 season is underway, his game will be recognized as the best at his position.
Chris Paul is currently the standard by which all PG's are measured. Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Tony Parker and Steve Nash have all earned mentions in that conversation. But as we move through his second season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Irving will play his way past each one of those elite level guards.
There's no single aspect of Kyrie Irving's game that he needs to develop heading into year two of his NBA career. His jump shot is already as pure as any point guard on the planet. His crossover is deadly. He has demonstrated the ability to create for his teammates, and shown the propensity to hit game-winning shots.
This is all before his 21st birthday.
Last season Irving shot 47% from the field, 40% from three, knocked down 87% of his free throws, and dished out 5.4 assists per game while averaging 18.5 points. Not one of the seven point guards listed above shot a better percentage from three-point range. Irving had a higher shooting percentage than than Rose, Westbrook, Rondo, and Williams. Only Steve Nash finished with a higher free throw percentage.
And he posted those numbers surrounded by essentially no other scoring threats.
He didn't have Blake Griffin commanding attention inside, Kevin Durant running next to him on the break, or Paul Pierce and Ray Allen flanked out at the wings. He put these numbers up while sharing the Cavaliers backcourt with Anthony Parker, hitting game winning shots to beat Boston on the road along the way.
The Cavaliers and Irving will only get better in year two.
By season's end, Irving will be 21 years old and Chris Paul 28. Derrick Rose will be battling back from an injury that has sidelined him for almost twelve months. Steve Nash will be inching closer to 40, and Tony Parker will be turning 31. While the rest of the NBA's elite point guards grow older, Irving will be rapidly approaching his prime. This after starting his career better than any point guard in the game today.
When you compare Kyrie's first season to the rookie years of these seven other point guards, you see that not one of them averaged as many points. Only Chris Paul and Derrick Rose averaged more assists as rookies, and nobody shot a better percentage from three point range.
For some help projecting Irving's numbers for year two, we can look back at the statistical increase that each of these players made in their second season.
Chris Paul increased his scoring average by 1.2 points from his first to second season in the NBA (16.1 to 17.3). Rose increased his scoring mark by 4 points (16.8 to 20.8), Westbrook 0.8 points (15.3 to 16.1), Rondo 4.2 points (6.4 to 10.6), Williams 5.4 (10.8 to 16.2), Parker 6.3 (9.2 to 15.5), and Nash 5.8 (3.3 to 9.1).
The average improvement was 3.9 points per game.
The average increase in assists comes out 1.7 assists per game.
When you add those two averages to Kyrie Irving's rookie year totals of 18.5 points and 5.4 assists, we you get 22.4 points and 7.1 assist per game.That's level of production that is as reasonable to expect as it is impressive.
These projected totals of 22.4 points and 7.1 assists would be before the 2013-14 NBA season ever begins. Once it does, Kyrie Irving will have elevated himself to the top spot on the NBA's point guard list. He'll be referred to then as Chris Paul is now; the standard by which all point guards are measured.