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You'd be hard-pressed to find a more promising young point guard than Irving.
Kyrie Irving was handed a virtually impossible task when he joined the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was asked to fill the LeBron James-sized hole in the hearts of Cleveland fans everywhere.
It was an enormous burden to put on the shoulders of a 19-year-old rookie. But somehow, Irving has carried that burden with the grace and the ease of a veteran.
Statistically, Irving is phenomenal. He’s averaging 23.9 points per game, tops among all NBA point guards, and is doing so while shooting 47 percent from the floor and 42 percent from three. His Player Efficiency Rating (22.39) is 14th in the league and fourth overall among point guards (per ESPN).
But statistics alone don’t tell the full story when it comes to Irving. It’s how he does all of this stuff that’s so impressive.
He played just 11 games at Duke before turning pro. So he essentially came straight out of high school and was expected to be the Cavs’ leader and best player from Day 1. And he’s done it.
You can literally watch Irving grow on a day-to-day basis. He’s like a basketball sponge—he just absorbs everything.
His ball-handling (already superb) has improved this year, as has his jumper. He’s obviously not perfect—he’s still a poor defender, for example— but his game is astonishingly well-rounded considering his age.
What’s really impressive is that Irving has virtually no offensive help. His best teammate, Anderson Varejao, is a great player, but he’s not a scorer. Varejao gets his points off putbacks or if he’s set up by a teammate. That’s it.
And outside of Varejao (who’s now hurt), not a single one of Irving’s teammates has a PER above the league average. Kyrie does it alone.
When Irving was out earlier this season with injury, Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins told The Plain Dealer’s Mary Schmitt Boyer:
I hope that this is not going to be something that he's going to be nicked up in his career because he's a fabulous player. To me he's sort of a combination of Isiah Thomas and Chris Paul when I watch him play. He can get anywhere he wants to get on that floor with the ball. He can shoot it, gets to the free-throw line. He plays at a great pace. When you're out there with him, if you're his teammate, you can read what he's doing.
That’s about as high as praise gets.
He may be hidden in a smaller market, but Irving is a bona fide superstar. The NBA has never been so full of great young point guards, and Irving may just be the greatest of them.