NBA Draft 2011: 10 Teams That Kyrie Irving Would Fit Best On
Duke freshman Kyrie Irving is a lock for the top two picks in June's 2011 NBA Draft.
The lottery order is to be determined, but so many lottery teams are in need of a point guard that Irving is the hottest commodity in the draft.
Many NBA teams covet Irving, though many know they have no chance of drafting him. Whichever team wins the lottery will likely lock him down, but improbable teams have won the lottery before.
Here are 10 teams that Kyrie Irving would best fit with.
10. Toronto Raptors
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Jose Calderon is the incumbent starter and Jerryd Bayless mops up the reserve minutes. Both are capable, which keeps Toronto from being desperate for a point guard.
Irving, however, would fit nicely because of his ball control and his defense. This team only focuses on scoring and doesn't look to stop opposing offenses and star point guards. Irving's excellent on-ball defense and energy could do wonders in shoring up Toronto's glaring 26th ranked scoring defense.
Toronto's offensive strategy is to push the pace, which they do well (10th out of 30), but their offensive rating is 21st. With the ball in Irving's hands, Toronto could get back to scoring with efficiency from the inside and out.
9. Atlanta Hawks
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Second-year guard Jeff Teague has emerged as a pro for the first time in the Atlanta Hawks' series against the Chicago Bulls.
Due to Kirk Hinrich's hamstring injury, Teague entered the starting lineup and went from playing 10 total minutes in the first round to averaging 42 in the second. He has also averaged 16 points, 3.8 assists and 1.5 steals while playing Derrick Rose to a 2-2 series deadlock.
All this is to say that Jeff Teague is showing that he can be a strong starting guard for Atlanta next year.
However, would the Hawks hesitate one minute to bring in Kyrie Irving to top the depth chart over Teague and Hinrich? There is no doubt in my mind that Irving is coveted by Atlanta's GM Rick Sund to quicken the offensive pace with his speed and bolster the backcourt with strong man-to-man defense.
Irving would be great with the Hawks because the situation does not force him to mature faster than his natural pace. With Joe Johnson, Al Horford and a few other scorers, Irving can concentrate initially on distributing and playing defense.
He's destined to be a star, but highly-touted prospects often wilt when asked to shoulder a huge burden immediately.
Irving would not have to do that on a playoff team with plenty of firepower.
8. Detroit Pistons
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The Detroit Pistons are punchless on offense and lackluster on defense. They have slowly become one of the least athletic teams in the league and need a dynamic infusion.
Kyrie Irving is one guy who could ignite the Piston offense (22nd in NBA) and liven up the defense (16th in NBA). Nobody is sure what position Rodney Stuckey, the incumbent starter, should play. Will Bynum is a certain backup.
Coach John Kuester has a target on his back, but if he somehow survives to next season, Irving would help him solve the mess at shooting guard with the overpaid and over-the-hill Rip Hamilton and Ben Gordon. The answer? Move Stuckey to start at the two and slide him down to the point when Irving rests. Stuckey doesn't shoot or score that well, but he adds to the atmosphere instead of subtracting from it like Hamilton does.
The Pistons need a dramatic culture change, but the chances of that coming internally are slim. They need to infuse a clean slate dynamic talent into the din of failure, horrible contracts, disunity and selfishness.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves
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If the Minnesota Timberwolves want to run (first in the league) and improve on defense (last in the league), then grabbing Kyrie Irving is the right thing for them.
The reality of this occurrence is stronger for no other team, as Minny holds the pole position for the top pick in the draft.
The reason they're this far down the list is because Minnesota has point guards who can contribute and the rights to another impact player in Ricky Rubio. They have three point guards already, so adding another, even one as special as Irving, is probably at the expense of the team's other needs.
They will probably take Irving with the No. 1 pick should they get it, but why they should concentrate on improving at the wing positions, where Wayne Ellington, Wes Johnson and Martell Webster rule.
Why not go Derrick Williams?
Adding Irving would free up GM David Kahn to trade Flynn and possibly Rubio and not have to worry about the state of his backcourt.
This is why the Irving pick, though overkill, is likely for Minnesota: he is a no-brainer No. 1 pick in this draft and allows them to improve greatly in other areas with ancillary moves after the draft.
6. Charlotte Bobcats
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D.J. Augustin hasn't developed as Charlotte hoped he would when they drafted him out of Texas three years ago.
The truth is, no point guard will ever get the space and control he needs to develop as long as Stephen Jackson is dominating the ball for Charlotte.
The reason the Bobcats would love a shot at Kyrie Irving is because Jackson will be gone in two years, and they'd like to get ahead on their future instead of waiting until he's gone.
Grabbing Irving would bring defensive toughness at the point to match it in other places, while making the wimpy offense (29th in scoring) more robust and making Augustin expendable.
Paul Silas took over for Larry Brown last season and immediately shortened the shot clock in practice to make his team run; Kyrie Irving, with young legs and athleticism to spare, could thrive in an atmosphere with such little offensive structure.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
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Ramon Sessions and the Cleveland Cavaliers were brutal offensively (25th) and defensively (23rd) last season, but tended to push the pace (11th) a little bit. Irving's utility would be maximized on this team, which needs a general upgrade in talent.
Cleveland, the projected second pick, prefers Irving to Derrick Williams. They believe that Sessions isn't the one to successfully lead the team, and clearly see drafting a point guard as priority.
The Cavs have good post players, so the clear focus is on the weak perimeter. If Irving is there at two, Cleveland will happily snatch him up. If not, they're still in good long-term shape taking Derrick Williams. Irving does not present a make-or-break situation in this draft.
4. Miami Heat
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It's no secret that the Miami Heat are overmatched at point guard every time they take the floor. It doesn't seem to bother coach Erik Spoelstra, though, because his team isn't designed to run through a point guard.
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James handle the ball so frequently that the conventional point guard is rendered obsolete in their offensive game plan. This means that it isn't so vital for the Heat to have a playmaker at point, only someone who can provide energy, hit an open shot every once in a while and not get torched defensively.
Mario Chalmers and Mike Bibby meet the minimum expectations, and that's about it. Having a great point guard is not what makes the Heat successful, which is why Kyrie Irving wouldn't fit the team well, despite being a significant upgrade.
3. Houston Rockets
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The Houston Rockets, shockingly, scored the third most points in the NBA in a strong deviation from their pattern. Before last year, the Rockets didn't score in the league's top 17 for several years running. The defense, just 22nd this year, was traditionally a top 10 unit before a short time ago.
Kyrie Irving would be a great floor general to preside over this peculiar transition, especially in lieu of legitimate NBA point guards. Kyle Lowry was exceptional after moving into the lineup upon Aaron Brooks' trade to Phoenix, but nothing has indicated that he can handle the rigors of an 82-game season. I am highly doubtful that the Rockets will be satisfied with him entering next season as their starter.
The Rockets are in the lottery with pieces to move. They have a need for a point guard to balance Kevin Martin's trigger happiness and the means to move up in the draft, so they should strike while the iron is hot.
Houston doesn't have big personalities that need to be fed constantly, so Irving's potential superstardom could actuate in a stable organization with a healthy team atmosphere.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
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The Los Angeles Lakers' backcourt woes are well-documented. Derek Fisher, a Phil Jackson favorite, should have never been re-signed because he hasn't been able to play basketball since 2008.
Even Kobe Bryant showed some serious signs of age in the Dallas catastrophe, casting major, major doubt on the Lakers' perimeter players.
The Lakers are in no position to draft Irving and have little to no options to make a play for him via trade. However, the organization's fixation on winning every year means that a roster blowup could be imminent. No one but Kobe Bryant will be untouchable in the aftermath of LA's humiliation.
Point guard should be the first position the Lakers address. When JJ Barea shreds your defense, you have a critical weakness at point guard.
The Lakers have ignored it for so long and skated by until now. The need for an athletic defender and ball handler such as Irving has never been greater, and is surpassed by few other teams.
1. Sacramento Kings
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It took the Sacramento Kings just one year to figure out that Tyreke Evans isn't a point guard, but still have a ways to go to fix that problem. Beno Udrih and his $6.5 million annual salary are not the answer.
Kyrie Irving would fit the Kings perfectly because of the team's athletic youth movement. The Kings played at the fourth quickest pace in the NBA, but were middle of the road in scoring because of poor efficiency (25th in offensive rating).
Irving would allow Evans to play off the ball and limit his turnovers and bad shots. Irving's great defense would create even more quick offense for the Kings with steals and limiting penetration of point guards.
DeMarcus Cousins would stand to benefit from a point guard who gets in the lane whenever he wants and has fantastic court vision. Keeping Cousins happy should be a primary goal of the organization that invested so much in him a year ago.
The Kings' record lagged behind their potential this year, and many around the league believe that one or two more solid pieces could have this team contending for a playoff spot within a few years.