How Cavs Coach David Blatt Can Help Kyrie Irving Resume His Superstar Journey

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How Cavs Coach David Blatt Can Help Kyrie Irving Resume His Superstar Journey
David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

The Cleveland Cavaliers have securely invested their future in Kyrie Irving. Now, it's Irving's turn to repay them.

Fresh off agreeing to a five-year, $90 million max contract on the first day when they were eligible to meet, Irving and the Cavs are now committed to each other for the next six seasons.

While some may feel that Irving hasn't justified this kind of money yet, it's wise to view this contract as an investment rather than a reward.

Irving is an elite NBA talent who's still just 22 years old.

He also took a step back last season, which is a bit alarming considering his age and seemingly limitless potential.

The good news for Irving and the Cavaliers is that they now have what's necessary to get their young star back on track.

After a year stuck in Mike Brown's isolation-heavy offense, Irving should now be free to maximize his abilities playing under new head coach David Blatt.

David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

 

Irving's (Derailed) Rise to Stardom

Irving came into the NBA with a bang, taking home Rookie of the Year honors while averaging 18.5 points and 5.4 assists per game.

Since he only played in 11 career college games during his freshman season with Duke, this was a pleasant surprise to most who hadn't gotten the chance to see Irving play. His head coach at the time, Byron Scott, was heralded for working with and developing star point guards Jason Kidd and Chris Paul.

Rocky Widner/Getty Images

The next season, Irving again impressed. He upped his scoring and passing numbers to 22.5 points and 5.9 assists per contest while making his first All-Star team.

Scott was developing his next phenom floor general, and Irving seemed to be taking a Paul-like path to stardom.

Unfortunately, the Cavaliers made the foolish decision to fire Scott after three seasons and replace him with former coach Brown. While Brown is well thought of for his defensive schemes and principles, his stagnant offense killed the development of many young Cavs.

Irving especially suffered, as he was forced into a lot of low-percentage shots while trying to create something out of nothing.

USA TODAY Sports

Nowhere was this more noticeable than in his shooting percentages.

While Irving was praised for his clean shooting form and three-point efficiency coming into the league, his numbers took a dive playing under Brown.

In two seasons running Scott's offense, Irving shot an impressive 46 percent from the field and 39.6 percent from deep. In one year under Brown, those numbers fell to 43 percent from the field and 35.8 percent on threes.

Irving needs an offense to make him look good, and not the other way around.

This is where Blatt comes in.

 

Offensive Flow

Blatt is a former point guard himself, playing for Pete Carril at Princeton in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

He runs a Princeton offense, designed for maximum movement and the prevention of those isolation situations that occurred so often with Brown.

Irving has some of the best handles in the NBA and is able to drive past his man as well as push the pace when needed. These abilities should fit perfectly under Blatt.

Branson Wright of The Plain Dealer tells us more:

Blatt's formula of high energy play is orchestrated by the point guard controlling the tempo. It's an offense where the point guard will push the ball and if the team can't get a quick or easy basket, the ball will move around and set up a pick and roll with the point guard.

Irving is an excellent pick-and-roll player due to his ability to hit the three-ball or finish at the basket. An offense in which he can use his speed and quickness to push the ball or pick-and-roll would suit him beautifully.

Bleacher Report's Zach Buckley helps to further explain the difference between Brown and Blatt's offenses:

The Cavaliers finished the 2013-14 season ranked 20th in assist percentage (57.2), via NBA.com. More than nine percent of their offensive plays were isolations, via Synergy Sports (subscription required), which resulted in an unsightly 38.1 field-goal percentage. When they ran the off-ball cuts Blatt's system demands, they enjoyed a 57.7 shooting percentage.

One point guard who played under Blatt in Turkey is Scoonie Penn, a former Ohio State basketball standout.

In Wright's article, Penn points out that while many NBA coaches give their point guards control, Blatt demands and expects much more from his floor generals.

"He wants his point guard to be more than just a scorer. He wants him to be a facilitator. David wants toughness out of his players. He wants them to attack, also on defense. Kyrie Irving has the ability to do that," Penn said.

It's safe to say that Irving has played passively at times during his young career, especially on the defensive end. Having a fiery coach like Blatt challenge him to attack at all times will only push Irving to become a better all-around player.

While it's the job of the players to perform, it's also the responsibility of the coach to put those players in the best possible positions to succeed.

Offensively, Brown did just the opposite.

Now under Blatt, Irving will be rewarded with more open looks, better ball movement and the freedom to create on the pick-and-roll.

 

Player-Coach Success

We've seen what a great coach can do for a player's individual success, especially at the point guard position.

Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs took a scrawny, 19-year-old Tony Parker 28th overall in the 2001 NBA draft and transformed him into a future Hall of Famer.

Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Mark Jackson, formerly of the Golden State Warriors, helped turn Stephen Curry from a shooter into a true point guard. In three seasons together, Curry's assist average went from 5.3 to 8.5 a game.

According to David Pick of Eurobasket, former Cavalier guard Jeremy Pargo played for Maccabi Tel Aviv under Blatt during the 2010-11 season and praised him for the way he works with and develops players:

Blatt understands emotions of players, their different attitudes, and knows how to get it all into one. Those are ingredients one needs to be a successful coach in the NBA.

NBA coaches deal with lots of different things such as, players who are pretty much the coach themselves or guys that don't agree with the coach, and you need to be able to work it all out and get wins in difficult situations - and I think Blatt is pretty good at that.

While a lot has to do with the talent level of the individual player, it's clear the head coach can dictate just how successful that player will be.

Scott was beginning to develop Irving into a star. Brown delayed it. Now it's up to Blatt to get Irving back on his superstar course.

The Cavaliers are betting $90 million on it, anyway.

 

All stats via Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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