David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Needs to Improve: defense, leadership
Irving may not be the first who comes to mind when thinking about players who need to raise their game, but there's still lots of improvement to be made by the third-year pro.
Forget that he's 21 years old. Irving is the leader of this team already and needs to set the tone for the rest of the club.
We know he can score, as his 22.7 points per game last season demonstrate. He can also do a little bit of rebounding (3.7 a game) and his assist numbers (5.9) should rise this season with the addition of Andrew Bynum, Anthony Bennett and Jarrett Jack.
That being said, Irving now plays for a coach who preaches defense. Jack is the best backup point guard the Cavs have had since Irving was drafted, so Mike Brown shouldn't be afraid to bench Irving at times if his defense isn't up to par.
According to 82games.com, Irving allowed opposing point guards to post an 18.1 PER against him, over three points above the league average. The Cavs as a team gave up two points less to opposing teams when Irving was out of the game. Up to this point Irving has been able to mask his defensive deficiencies by his offensive prowess. Something tells me Mike Brown won't be so forgiving.
Irving also needs to improve his overall leadership.
This is no easy task for a 21-year-old, but, going into his third pro season, Irving should be up for the challenge. Last winter, in a February game against the Detroit Pistons, the Cavs—for whatever reason—just didn't bring it. The Pistons, who would end the season just 29-53, beat the Cavs 117-99 in what was arguably Cleveland's worst loss of the year.
What made matters worse were the comments from Kyrie Irving afterwards.
Irving told reporters that "My energy wasn’t there. It was there in the first quarter, then the second and third, I was disinterested..." He also said that certain plays had him "ticked off" and that his "lackluster play trickled down to everybody else."
Not ideally what one wants to hear from a team leader.
To be fair, Irving was just 20 years old at the time of the game. He's spent his summer traveling, getting stronger and turning heads while training with Team USA. Expect to see a lot of growth in both leadership and maturity in Irving both now and in the future.
He'll need it; and a little bit of defense if he truly wants to become one of the NBA's best.