Kyrie Irving: Where Does He Rank Among Previous Top NBA Prospects?
Kyrie Irving and the Duke Blue Devils were left stunned in this year's NCAA tournament, falling well-short of an Elite Eight appearance in a double-digit loss to the Arizona Wildcats.
The 93-77 loss may have hurt the Blue Devils, but Irving was just short of sensational in what was more than likely his last time suiting up in blue and white. He scored 28 points on 9-of-15 shooting.
Despite the loss, Irving is arguably the top draft prospect in this summer's 2011 NBA draft. His size and athletic ability on both ends of the floor is unmatched by most. In a draft that is said to not be as strong as it has been in past seasons, Irving will likely be drafted in one of the first two selections.
Join B/R and myself in ranking Kyrie Irving amongst the 10 top NBA prospects of the last 10 years.
**Note to Readers: International players are being used in this particular list, as it ranks the top 10 top draft selections of the last 10 years, including Irving. **
No. 10: Greg Oden
Who else would it be?
Oden is surely a funny guy, that can't be taken away from him, but a couple of laughs is all he has really brought to the NBA since being drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers in 2007.
He has played in 82 games since joining the team, a season's worth of games in four years with the team.
Yet it cannot take away from his performance before entering the league, since this is a ranking of top prospects.
With the Ohio State Buckeyes he was a dominating force in the paint, averaging 15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks a game. He was a great prospect, but failed to deliver as a pro.
No. 9: Andrea Bargnani
Andrea Bargnani might be just another player to some, but he was quite the prospect with his high-level play in Italy.
Bargnani was the No. 1 selection in the 2006 NBA draft by the Toronto Raptors, after showing tremendous potential in his play with Pallacanestro Treviso in Italy.
The 7'0" center has had his struggles in the NBA, playing in his fifth season for the Toronto Raptors and getting to the postseason just twice. Both appearances resulted in first-round knockouts for the Raptors.
This season Bargnani has been playing his best basketball yet, averaging 21.8 points and 5.3 rebounds a game.
No. 8: Andrew Bogut
The Milwaukee Bucks couldn't have been more thrilled when they snagged Andrew Bogut with the first selection of the 2005 NBA draft.
In the NBA, Bogut has been a force, this season averaging just over 13 points and 11 rebounds in 60 games. Injury has been the biggest problem for Bogut since going pro, missing 81 games in the last three seasons.
Bogut played tough minutes and produced big in his two years with the Utah Utes, averaging 20.4 points and 12.2 rebounds in his final season with the team.
No. 7: Yao Ming
An all-time favorite quote from the big fella:
"I haven't died. Right now I'm drinking a beer and eating fried chicken. What were you expecting, a funeral?"
Those are the words of Yao Ming in reference to his lengthy absence due to injury. Ming is quite the character, but has especially suffered from injury since being drafted first by the Houston Rockets in the 2002 NBA draft.
He has played in just five games this season, and rumor has it this season may well be his last due to lingering injury problems since entering the NBA.
As an NBA prospect, the hype was as loud as it could get for Ming. The 7'6" center was a rare prospect, being one of the taller players in NBA history.
Sadly, the addition of Ming has not benefited the Rockets much, as they continue to struggle since the departure of Tracy McGrady.
No. 6: Dwight Howard
"Superman" is the man in Orlando, and is as athletic and talented as any top NBA prospect in the game's history.
Dwight Howard has helped the Orlando Magic in becoming one of the elite teams in the East since joining the league. This season he is second in the league in rebounding, averaging a career-high 14.3 rebounds and adding a career-high 23.2 points per game. His offensive repertoire has improved since joining the league, and it has paid dividends for the 6'10" center.
Entering the 2004 NBA draft, Howard had as much substantial upside as one could look for in an NBA prospect. Playing for Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy in Georgia, Howard posted 25 points per game, while helping his team to win a state title.
Howard has proven his worth in the NBA, as well as in his days before becoming a pro.
No. 5: Derrick Rose
As far as performance in the NBA goes, Derrick Rose is as good as it gets when it comes to top NBA prospects.
This season he has the Chicago Bulls atop the Eastern Conference, recently pulling ahead of the Boston Celtics, who had led for much of the regular season. Rose has done so without his starting center for the majority of the season, while getting role players involved and playing team defense.
His career-high numbers and winning ways in Chicago have him in MVP talks across the league, as he has played arguably the best basketball of any point guard, or any player for that matter.
In his one year with Memphis, Rose averaged over 14 points and four assists a game. His play helped John Calipari and company reach the national championship against Kansas, where they would go down in a heart-breaking loss.
His numbers were not that of a LeBron James, John Wall or Blake Griffin in his college days, but Rose has proved and still continues to prove, his worth as a winner. Rose easily ranks as one of the top NBA prospects in the last decade.
No. 4: Kyrie Irving
I know, I know.
To many basketball fans, putting Irving ahead of Derrick Rose or Howard is a crime, but in fact Irving may be one of the better prospects to grace the NBA in recent seasons.
Irving has one of the better three-point shots in the nation and can score the ball from all angles. His 6'2", 180-pound frame is average as far as size goes in the pros, yet Irving still seems to overpower most guards in game situations.
Much like a Rose or a John Wall, Irving has a knack to get to the rim and frustrate opposing defenders with his ball-handling abilities. This season with the Blue Devils, despite missing the majority of the season, Irving averaged 17.5 points per game in just over 27 minutes a game. He also shot 46 percent from three-point range.
Despite falling short in to the Wildcats in the Sweet 16, Irving managed to put up 28 points with just one turnover. His scoring ability is unmatched by most in this year's NBA draft.
No. 3: John Wall
He's got the skills, he's got size, and he has a whole lot of what some like to call "swagger." Not to mention, he's got his own dance too.
Aside from his confidence and evident talent, John Wall was both a proven talent and winner as a top NBA prospect. In his one season with the Kentucky Wildcats, another player under the lead of Calipari, Wall averaged over 16 points a game and 6.5 assists a game.
In their loss to West Virginia in the Elite Eight, Wall posted 19 points, nine boards, five dimes and four steals. Not only did Wall get it done numbers-wise, but he was also a clutch player down the stretch.
He can play defense, get to the basket, and handle the ball as well as any guard since being drafted in last year's NBA draft by the Washington Wizards. Wall leads the Wizards in assists with nearly nine a game.
No. 2: Blake Griffin
Most players probably wouldn't want to be in Glen "Big Baby" Davis' shoes, although a plethora of players surely have.
After missing his rookie year due to a season-ending injury, Griffin would come back stronger than ever this season, winning the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest and putting up eye-popping numbers. He has averaged just over 22 points per game and 12 rebounds this season.
In his days with the Oklahoma Sooners, Griffin was easily the best prospect of his class. His 22.7 points and 14.7 rebounds per game his sophomore year were numbers NBA teams could not help but drool over.
The No. 1 selection in the 2009 NBA draft, Griffin will look to be a force in seasons to come. The Los Angeles Clippers are yet to be playoff contenders, but with time, look to be a team on the rise, as long as Griffin continues his tenure with the team.
No. 1: LeBron James
Who else could it possibly be?
The former St. Vincent-St. Mary High School (Akron, OH) phenom is arguably one of the better top NBA prospects in the last several decades. In four seasons playing for the Irish, James helped his team win a mind-blowing three state championships.
James has had as successful an NBA career as one could ask for, scoring the ball as well as any player in the league and making plays at both ends of the floor on a nightly basis. When James comes through the lane, his size and quickness leaves most defenders clueless as to how to stop the Akron native.
If there's one thing that hasn't translated to the NBA, it's winning a championship. Many already argue that James is one of the best players in league history, although without a title to his name the argument is yet to have much validity.
In Cleveland he helped a team of average talent to a 60-win season, failing to meet expectations after losing to the Boston Celtics in last year's postseason.
This season, James plays alongside All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, with the Heat currently holding the third seed in the East. This season he has proven to be the main scoring threat for the Heat.
As far as being a top NBA prospect, there is no prospect in the last 10 years that was as highly praised and talented as LeBron James.