Either Kyrie Irving's stock is sliding, or Syracuse is on its way to pushing yet another top-shelf talent through to the NBA.
Replacing Rookie of the Year front-runner Michael Carter-Williams wasn't going to be easy, but it sounds like freshman phenom Tyler Ennis has handled it quite well.
One NBA general manager told ESPN Insider Chad Ford (subscription required) he already has the Orange's new signal-caller above Irving, a 2014 Eastern Conference All-Star starter:
If you were to ask me right now whether I'd take Ennis over Kyrie Irving, I think it's Ennis. He does all the things that help a basketball team win basketball games. You can pick him apart on individual flaws, but I would take this kid right now and trust him to run my team. I think there's very few freshmen you could ever say that about.
It's lofty praise to say the least, but perhaps not unfounded.
Ennis' individual production won't blow you away (12.1 points, .436/.391/.757 shooting slash, 5.7 assists), but he's not being lauded here for his solo work. Rather, it's his ability to lead the undefeated (21-0) and top-ranked Orange that's moving him up the mock draft boards.
B/R draft expert Jonathan Wasserman has Ennis slotted at No. 13 in his most recent mock draft, hailing his natural instinct to handle the lead guard spot. "Ennis' feel for the position is as good as it gets," Wasserman wrote, "and if I'm a team looking for a point guard outside the top five, there's no question as to which player I'm targeting."
The executive certainly seems to be boosting Ennis with his words, but it is interesting he opted to put Irving in the discussion.
The former No. 1 pick might have found his way into the All-Star starting lineup, but the 2013-14 season has been a borderline disaster. His shooting percentages have fallen to career lows across the board (.427/.362/.844), as has his player efficiency rating (20.1).
The playoff-hopeful Cleveland Cavaliers have stumbled to a 16-32 start. The Andrew Bynum experiment was an unmitigated disaster, former All-Star Luol Deng has done nothing to stop the bleeding, 2013 top pick Anthony Bennett looks like a historical reach and, according to Chad Ford, word has leaked that Irving wants out of Cleveland.
This feels like the unnamed NBA GM was complimenting Ennis more than anything, but he did shed some interesting light on two point guard stocks heading in opposite directions.
Ennis might be targeting Irving's current level, while the Cavs floor general does some damage control to prevent any further slippage.