ACC's Top 25: No. 6, Kyrie Irving, Duke
Who says Coach K doesn’t take one-and-done players?
While Kyrie Irving has never said he’s only in it for one season, the New Jersey native has all the tools to be in the NBA in 2011.
Without question, he’s the best pure point guard coming in as a freshman this year. In fact, when the season is all said and done, he could be the best point guard, period.
He’s that good.
Many people smarter than me have already compared Irving to last year’s super-stud point guard, John Wall. Averaging 13.6 points and four assists a game in under 20 minutes as the floor leader for Team U.S.A.’s under-18 gold-medal team this summer will do that.
This, of course, is probably a little much. He’s shorter than Wall (by about three inches) and he’s not as strong. Irving is also not as athletic as Wall, but the fact is, he’s athletic enough.
If he reminds me of anyone though, it is former Duke point guard, Jay Williams.
Like Williams, Irving is simply good at every aspect of being a point guard. He can penetrate without a screen or nail a three from long-range.
He’ll be Duke’s best ball-handler and passer starting from day one. He’s wicked smart, a must for a Coach K point guard, who will make everyone around him better, especially the Plumlee brothers.
In fact, two areas where I can see Irving actually out-performing both Williams and Wall are three-point shooting and turnovers (or lack of).
Williams shot 35 percent from three as a freshman, while Wall only managed to drain 32 percent. Don’t be shocked to see Irving hit closer to 38 percent from three.
In regard to turnovers, both Williams and Wall averaged over four turnovers a game, producing a decent 1.6 assist-to-turnover rate. Not bad for freshmen, but Irving potentially could be better.
The advantage Irving has is simple: He doesn’t have to be the man. When Williams and Wall showed up on campus, both were asked to be the leaders of their respected clubs. Both averaged over 34 minutes per game.
Thanks to the return of seniors Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith, Irving will never need to be the star. Sure, as a point guard, you need to display leadership qualities, but thanks to a bevy of guards in Duke’s backcourt, the team won’t live and die based solely on his performance.
Less pressure lets the kid just play basketball.
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