Toronto Raptors: Kyrie Irving the Point Guard of the Future

Mark BirdsellContributor IIIMarch 25, 2011

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 24:  Kyrie Irving #1 of the Duke Blue Devils looks on against the Arizona Wildcats during the west regional semifinal of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Honda Center on March 24, 2011 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

This is a very exciting time of year for basketball.  March Madness is in full force.  The NBA regular season is winding and teams are preparing for the playoffs.  However, it isn’t a fun time for everyone.  There are 14 NBA teams whose seasons will end in a couple of weeks and now must look toward the NBA draft.

This year’s draft is filled with uncertainty.  With the current collective bargaining agreement set to expire and a potential lockout looming, a number of the top prospects may decide to go back to college for another year.

Add the fact that there is no consensus No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, General Managers and scouting departments have their work cut out for them in trying to prepare.

Those being considered as potential No. 1 picks include: Kyrie Irving, Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones, Jared Sullinger, Derrick Williams and Enes Kanter.

For the Toronto Raptors, this is the opportunity to add another solid building block to a young team. 

Depending on the results of the NBA draft lottery, the Raptors will select anywhere from first to eighth (based on the standings as of March 25, 2011).  However, if there is no change in the draft order Toronto would pick fifth.

For Raptor fans, this is an unfortunate year to have such a high pick.  There is no John Wall or Blake Griffin.  And the last time the Raptors were selecting in the top five it was again a weak draft class. 

The team selected Andrea Bargnani first overall in 2006.  He is developing into a solid player.  Currently averaging 22 points per game, but only 5.4 rebounds, this number is still too low for a seven-footer.

This will likely be a draft based on need, not on overall talent.  What I mean by that is without a legitimate franchise player available, teams will look to plug holes in their roster, instead of simply taking the best player available.

Therefore, if a team such as Washington or Sacramento gets the first overall pick it is unlikely the teams will select Irving, since they have Wall and Tyreke Evans, respectively.

However, if the Raptors or Cleveland Cavaliers win the lottery there is a good possibility Irving will go No. 1.

And then if the Minnesota Timberwolves win, who knows what will happen, as David Kahn doesn’t seem to have any idea how to run an NBA franchise.  He simply tries to acquire assets, without any plan of how the team will fit together.  Then he hopes for the best.

Kyrie Irving is the player I’m most intrigued with as the draft draws near. 

The NBA is quickly developing into a league dominated by point guards.  If your team doesn’t have an All-Star level point guard you can forget about competing for a championship. 

There are obvious exceptions, Miami and Los Angeles. However, if you have one of the top three basketball players on the planet, a superstar point guard might not be necessary.

Irving has only played 11 games this season and that will likely be the extent of his college career.  He injured his toe in December, during the team’s eighth game and did not return until the tournament a few weeks ago.

Since Duke has been eliminated, Irving will likely continue to rehab and improve his conditioning, then decide if entering the draft is the right decision to make.

He is a 6’2”, 180 lbs. point guard who simply changes the game.  Duke was the NCAA Tournament Champion last year and the belief was the team would be better this year with the addition of Irving.

Irving is a good decision maker, has great passing skills and court vision, and has drawn comparisons to Chris Paul.

He would be the perfect addition to the Toronto Raptors.

As the team sits now, its core group of players consists of Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis, James Johnson, Amir Johnson and Jerryd Bayless.

Bargnani and DeRozan both have potential to be big time contributors on a winning team.  It is too early to tell what type of player Davis will turn into.  Finally, both Johnsons and Bayless are nice, but likely will never develop into more than rotation players.

The Raptors currently have Jose Calderon starting at point guard.  He is an effective player.  Not flashy, but gets the job down.

Calderon is always at the top of the league in assist-to-turnover ratio and is developing a nice pick-and-roll relationship with Amir.  However, at the end of the day, Calderon will never be among the league’s best point guards and this is a need that must be addressed in the new NBA.

Bryan Colangelo has never seemed sold on Calderon.  First he brought in T.J. Ford, who is now in Indiana.  Then it was Jarrett Jack.  Jack is currently backing up Paul in New Orleans.

Colangelo tried to send Calderon to the Charlotte Bobcats in exchange for Tyson Chandler.  Only to have Michael Jordan back out of the deal at the last minute and send Chandler to Dallas instead.

Toronto has a number of glaring holes in its current roster, most notably small forward.  However, no one on the team is talented enough that they should feel irreplaceable.

If the Raptors are able to draft him, Irving will go a long way to turning this team into a playoff team and maybe down the road a title contender.