Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images
This is a bet on potential.
Irving is already a premier scorer and shooter at just 21 years old, but right now his impact on the game isn't complete. Irving is a little too turnover-prone, and he's a dreadful defender who doesn't make an impact unless the ball is in his hands.
But again, he's just 21 years old. Irving is entering his third season with a career 21.4 PER, a number that surpasses Rose and Westbrook. Irving possesses ball-handling abilities rivaled perhaps only by Chris Paul, and he's proven to be extremely efficient, especially when you consider the teammates around him.
Most of the issues with Irving seem correctable, as he doesn't lack for natural ability or any skill. Defensively it's more about effort than anything else, and better distributing should come hand in hand with cleaner driving lanes and better teammates spreading the floor.
Of course, I'd be remiss not to mention Irving's injury woes thus far. Irving has missed 38 combined games over his first two seasons, although you can likely chalk up some of those up to bad luck and maybe even a little creative tanking on Cleveland's behalf.
The big difference between Irving and anyone else on this list, however, is his rookie scale deal. Irving has two seasons of salary below $7 million per year left, and after that he'll almost certainly be under a team's control on a max deal for another five years. If we were hypothetically starting from scratch around the league, that might separate Irving from anyone not named LeBron or Durant.
That said, you'd still probably like to see Irving stay healthy for an entire season first. At one point Eric Gordon looked like the league's next best shooting guard, and we know how that has turned it out. Irving is worth the risk, but he still takes a backseat to a few more established stars.