Those who viewed Kyrie Irving as a potential candidate for a sophomore slump have collectively had to eat crow.
When the year began, I said that Irving was going to need to average between 22-to-24 points per game and six-to-eight assists in order for the Cleveland Cavaliers to be competitive. So far this year, Irving is averaging nearly 24 points-per-game and six assists, and the Cavs are a .500 ballclub. It is safe to say that Irving has met the challenges laid before him and exceeded them.
Doing It All
In his rookie year, Irving showed glimpses of real promise. He scored in a variety of ways, including shooting exceptionally well from the field and the three-point line (46.9 and 39.9 percent respectively). Not only that, but he got to the line and set up his teammates.
In fact, Irving did everything to near perfection as a rookie aside from missing double-digit games.
Irving is the classic scoring point guard in the mold of Isiah Thomas and Tim Hardaway. He can get to the hoop whenever he wants, and he can shoot the lights out.
Furthermore, his numbers are sure to go up as his free-throw numbers are surprisingly low and will likely improve based on his track record in the pros and college (87 and 90 percent respectively).
This is a guy who is figuring it out right before our eyes.
Help From His Mates
In some ways, the Cavs are set up to make Irving succeed.
By that, I mean that this team is built much like Allen Iverson's Philadelphia 76ers teams were comprised. They have a lot of role players, including strong frontcourt defenders and a transcendent small scoring guard.
In many ways, this team does not have a lot of other options besides Irving when it comes to scoring. Sure, Dion Waiters is promising as a rookie, but so far his numbers have been wildly inconsistent, which is expected of a rookie guard.
C.J. Miles is a solid player in the second unit, but hardly a scorer.
Alonzo Gee is an undersized slashing small forward who provides more defense than offense and doesn't shoot particularly well from the perimeter.
Tristan Thompson is most definitely the future of the frontcourt for this team, but he isn't a scorer. His value is as an energy guy who grabs boards and blocks shots.
Anderson Varejao is a more intense version of Thompson. He can score in some ways, but will never average more than 15 ppg.
With the exception of Daniel Gibson and Waiters, nobody else on this team looks for his own shot even half as much as Irving.
The good news for Irving is that those guys complement him greatly. Varejao and Thompson set great picks, Miles and Gee are great at defending swingmen and big guards, and nearly everyone on the roster runs the court well.
Even Waiters provides support for Irving by being able to create shots for himself. Additionally, Waiters has drastically improved his three-point shooting which gives Irving yet another option on the perimeter.
The Path Forward
In all honesty, there is only one thing that can keep Irving from becoming one of the league's elite point guards, and that is his health. The fact is that Irving is improving drastically from a very successful rookie season, and trends are pointing to him getting even better.
He is shooting better, he can get to the hoop at will and his assist numbers are going up.
This is a guy that if he were a stock, he would be a dark blue chip. Get on the Kyrie bandwagon quickly because the seats are being taken.
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