With the NBA All-Star Game looming, it's time to get down to business and shake out just who should and should not be included, and one of those inclusions should definitely be Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving.
There's generally a lot of disapproval from people when we talk about including a player from what is one of the worst teams in the NBA in a contest of the league's best players.
However, when we're talking about a player the caliber of Irving, certainly exceptions can be made. It's not like it hasn't happened in the past.
Hell, Cleveland's Zydrunas Ilgauskas made the team back in 2003 for a squad that was an atrocious 10-40 at the time of the All-Star Break. This Cleveland squad is quite a bit better than that team was, all things considered.
With the new qualifications for voting, it's undeniable that Irving is at least one of the four best backcourt players in the Eastern Conference, and his exclusion would be looked at as one of the biggest snubs in recent memory.
Because of a few weeks missed earlier in the season, Irving has played in just 29 games, so he's a bit behind the rest of the Eastern Conference crew in that regard, but he hasn't missed so many games that putting him in the All-Star Game would be an injustice.
When looking at the guys whom he's going up against, it seems like a bit of a steep climb—if only because there is a big name or two between him and All-Star recognition.
However, let's take a realistic look at the season he has put together in an attempt to really get a grip on what he's done as a basketball player so far this year.
On the Court
Irving is averaging 23 points per game, 3.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 1.7 steals, all while shooting 46 percent from the floor and 41 percent from the three-point line.
He's leading all Eastern Conference backcourt players in scoring, with Dwyane Wade coming the closest to him at 20.1 points per game, and he's doing that while maintaining a scoring average that puts him fifth among point guards.
As far as three-point shooting goes across all positions, only Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Joe Johnson approaches his three-point percentage in terms of guys who have a heavy scoring load, taking more than 15 shots per game. Carmelo shoots 42 percent from beyond the arc, LeBron 41 percent and Johnson 38 percent.
His assist rate is not as high as most of the other elite point guards in the Eastern Conference, but it's not like he's miles behind the group. He's 11th in the East in terms of point guards.
Irving ranks up there in nearly every important category, but we've seen guys put up big numbers before and end up getting snubbed, so let's keep going and see what else he brings to the table.
Not only is Irving a tremendous player, but he's a tremendously entertaining player, and sometimes that's half the battle.
With fans voting for the All-Star game, it's going to take a lot of public recognition for a player to get enough nods to be voted a starter, but Irving is well on the way to the stardom it requires.
Irving has put on shows all season long, and they've happened against the right teams. He's been amazing whether you look at his 41-point game against the New York Knicks, his 34-point, eight-assist night against the Brooklyn Nets, the 28-point, 11-assist game against the Los Angeles Lakers or the 24-point, 10-assist night against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Drives to the rim, incredible finishes with his off-hand, ridiculous half-court alley-oops, daggers and game-winners have been the norm for Irving this season.
When it all comes down to it, the real question about whether Irving gets in or not is going to come down to who he's going up against.
As far as the starters go, it seems the two backcourt spots are all but sealed up. Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo are both more than 300,000 votes ahead of the next-closest guard in the most recent voting results.
That means Irvings's only chance of making the team is to be selected by the coaches. Generally speaking, there are four backcourt spots on each All-Star Team, meaning he's got to grab one of the two available spots.
While Irving is still developing his basketball brand, he's easily the best guard outside the top two vote-getters.
His competition amounts to Deron Williams, Jrue Holiday, Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings and Ray Allen.
With that group as his competition, he should easily be able to earn a trip to to Houston to suit up for the Eastern Conference.