In full disclosure, I am a MN fan, but I am rooting for the Cavaliers a little since the South Beach incident. Back when Rubio was healthy, I was comparing him and Irving to see who had the better complete game and should win rookie of the year. Irving rated extraordinarily well on individual offense. Rubio's shooting was bordering on terrible, but he rated higher on passing and defense, so it was closer than you might think. Ultimately, I believe Irving will win rookie of the year by a wide margin, but my research uncovered a few things that provoked the following commentary and questions.
There are about 4 PGs that get regular starter minutes and score more efficiently(eFG%) than Kyrie. They are Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry and Ty Lawson. That is pretty good company to be in, especially for a rookie. With the shortened season and injuries, Irving has only faced Nash and Lawson(1 game each) this season. Yet somehow opposing point guards, the guys Kyrie guards, are scoring more efficiently than Irving.
I am truly curious if he looks better on defense than the statistics suggest. According to Synergy Sports, opposing players are shooting about 48.5% from 2 and 46.4% from 3 when they face Irving. There are zero guards that play 24+ minutes per game and shoot better than 46% from 3 this season. What does this say about his defense?
Question 1—Does Kyrie look like he is playing good defense and opposing players are just hitting a lot of difficult shots or does he have a lot to work on here?
I have only seen Irving play in the rookie vs. sophomore game, so I truly don’t know how he runs an offense. I saw someone on Fearthesword suggest he could be the next Chris Paul, who is one of the best at running an offense. Currently, Kyrie Irving is at an Assist/TO ratio of 1.733(just outside of the top 40 among qualified point guards, but still ahead of Russell Westbrook), while the worst season of Chris Paul’s career(rookie season), he was just over 3.33. Also, in Chris Paul’s worst season for steals, he recorded 1.84 steals/game. Irving is at 1.02 steals/game, but improved in March. As you can probably tell, I don’t find this to be a perfect comparison, but Kyrie is very young and didn’t even play much as a college freshman due to injury. On the positive side, he was close to 2 assists/TO in February and March after a very rough January. Irving is an offensive force for sure.
Question 2—Does Irving have the potential to be somewhat like Chris Paul or is he closer to the mid-point between Stephen Curry and Derrick Rose?
Although he does score incredibly efficiently for a young guard, his overall stats seem reminiscent of an all-star game in that he might be mainly focused on his own offense and not playing particularly solid defense. No doubt Kyrie can get better at defense, but this seems fair to some degree given the numbers in his short career.
In theory, I generally prefer point guards more interested in setting up the offense than scoring themselves, however, championships don’t often follow the top assist guys in recent history. When you score more efficiently than your teammates, one could argue that the team’s best interest is for you to take it yourself rather than pass the ball. However, in games Irving has played(46), the team has a winning record when he shoots 12 or fewer shots(7-5, including the great OKC win where he had 12 assists and only 1 TO). When he shoots more than 12 shots, the team is 9-25. When Irving has 7 assists or more, Cleveland has a .500 record. Of course, one might just infer that when Irving’s teammates play well and hit shots following his passes, the Cavs have a better chance at winning. Interestingly, when Sessions had 7 assists or more, the Cavs were 7-5.
Also of interest, Ramon Sessions and Kyrie Irving didn’t play together all that often, but when they did, the Cavaliers outscored their opponents overall on the season by a total of 21 points. Considering the Cavaliers are at -341 in point differential on the season, this seems significant. When the 2 of them played alongside Alonzo Gee, they outscored their opponents by 67 points in about 167 minutes together. While that is less than 4 total games of minutes together, that is better than +9 points per 24 minutes playing together.
Question 3—Was the lineup of Irving, Sessions and Gee vastly underutilized?
Sadly, Ramon Sessions and his reasonable contract are gone, so the team will not be able to continue to roll with that lineup. Quick side note—Sessions has been at 2.35 A/TO ratio or better in each season of his career other than the one where he was completely misused by Kurt Rambis(1.88). The Cavaliers will likely get a pick around #25 in the upcoming draft from the Lakers, so along with their own lottery pick, hopefully they can find someone else to provide valuable minutes alongside Irving.
Question 4—Is the draft pick worth it or should the Cavaliers have held onto Sessions to backup the PG spot and play several minutes per game(4th quarters?) alongside Irving and Gee?
While some might see this post as negative, I really just want to pose the questions and get honest feedback. Again, Kyrie is amazingly efficient for a young rookie guard. He is very impressive and was a pretty clear choice at #1. I suspect his defensive numbers will get better in the following seasons. I was just surprised by what I was seeing in the stats and wanted to get feedback from the good people of Fearthesword, who likely have invested a lot of minutes watching Irving and have a much better view of how he plays and how much potential he has.