Report Card Grades for Kyrie Irving's First 2013-14 Preseason Game

Brendan Bowers@@BowersCLEContributor IIOctober 9, 2013

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 8:  Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers brings the ball up the court against the Milwaukee Bucks at The Quicken Loans Arena on October 8, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

Kyrie Irving and his Cleveland Cavaliers opened the preseason schedule with a matchup against the visiting Milwaukee Bucks

The game was dominated by Cleveland, who jumped out to a 21-6 advantage early in the first quarter and never looked back. While coach Mike Brown rested his starters and key reserves for all of the fourth, Cleveland finished with a 99-87 victory.

“I think we did a great job," Irving said after the game. "We held them to 35 percent shooting. For our first preseason game, you can expect a high amount of turnovers, but we just have to go over film tomorrow and see what we can improve on and see where we can go from here."

Despite a collection of highlights from the Cavaliers All-Star, along with an effective night shooting and solid effort defensively, there is one area Irving could improve upon specifically as the preseason continues. 

That breakdown of how Irving performed in terms of highlight plays, ball-handling, shooting and defense from a grade standpoint during his first test of the 2013-14 preseason is below. 

Highlight Plays: A

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With just under four minutes remaining in the first quarter, Tristan Thompson helped Kyrie Irving generate a Milwaukee Bucks turnover by double-teaming Luke Ridnour at the top of the key. 

Irving then collected the basketball before leading a wide-open break that ended by dropping a bounce pass between his legs to Thompson for the easy finish.

The Quicken Loans Arena fans were up on their feet for the first time during the preseason in response. The highlight from Irving also pushed the Cavs' advantage to 21-6 in a game they'd collectively dominate throughout. 

Irving would later knock down two three-pointers along with converting a high-arcing layup in traffic that served as a small sample of highlights compiled in less than 24 minutes of work on the night.

Ball-Handling: B-

Oct 8, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Knight (11) defends Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (2) in the second quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

One area of Irving's offensive game he could improve upon heading into the Cavaliers preseason matchup with the Orlando Magic on Friday would be his assist-to-turnover ratio. 

While Irving did demonstrate his elite crossover at times, he finished with only three assists. More important than that, however, were the five turnovers Irving also committed.

That total led the Cavaliers in turnovers while also matching Bucks rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo for a game high. This comes after Irving finished tied for 62nd among all qualified players during the 2012-13 campaign with an assist-to-turnover ratio of only 1.83. 

As the preseason continues, Irving could do well by cleaning up this aspect of his otherwise exceptional offensive attack.

Shooting: A

Irving demonstrated his full shooting range against the Bucks by knocking down multiple three-point field goals, converting layups in traffic along with connecting on this fundamental jumper from seven feet out. 

He shot 50 percent from the field on the night while making five of the 10 shots he attempted. Irving also converted two of his four three-point field-goal attempts in addition to sinking both free throws on his only trip to the charity stripe.

The 14 points Irving scored came while spending the fourth quarter on the bench in just under 24 minutes of work. 

While last season Irving was forced to generate the majority of his scoring opportunities off the dribble, he also found ways to score by moving without the basketball on plays like the one highlighted above against Milwaukee.

Defense: A-

Oct 8, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (2) defends Milwaukee Bucks forward Caron Butler (3) in the second quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

It is only one preseason game to be sure, but Irving appeared focused defensively on a per-possession basis far more often than he was during the 2012-13 campaign.

While defending Brandon Knight with just under eight minutes remaining in the third quarter, for example, Irving hustled to stay in front of Knight after the Milwaukee guard gained a step on Irving before swiping the ball away later in the possession. That type of defensive recovery is something we haven't seen from Irving on a consistent basis throughout his first two years in the league.

For the game, Knight and Ridnour, who Irving matched up with defensively during his time on the floor, finished a combined 2-for-11 shooting with only nine points. Irving also finished with two steals and two blocked shots. 

While he has a long way to go in order to become a complete superstar on the defensive end, Irving's first preseason game was certainly a step in that direction.

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