This is a big year for the Cleveland Cavaliers. It's year 2 of our rebuilding phase, and coincidentally Kyrie Irving's second year in the NBA. He was the Rookie of the Year by a landslide vote, and it should have been unanimous. People tend to forget that Kyrie wasn't supposed to be this good. He was the number one pick in a weak draft, and the more optimistic projections said he could have the ceiling of a "poor man's Chris Paul." Yet after a disappointing first game, Kyrie took off. His combination of shifty dribbling, blinding speed and a beautiful shooting stroke made it clear from early on that he was head and shoulders above every other rookie. He had the Cavs on a roll for quite some time, and it seemed like there was a chance we could grab the 8th seed. But then the wheels fell off; Anderson Varejao's wrist injury, combined with Kyrie getting injured and some inspired taking, made for a pretty awful last 20 games or so. But things are looking up. For once, it isn't just Cavs fans that are excited about the Cavs. Everyone is excited to see if Kyrie Irving makes "The Leap," and joins the upper echelon of point guards in the NBA. I think an interesting way to prepare yourself for another year of watching our young point guard grow is to attempt to project his improvement for this upcoming year.
Kyrie's statistics in 2011-2012:
18.5 PPG, 5.4 APG, 3.7 RPG, .47 FG%, .40 3P%
That's pretty damn good for a rookie. And it's not just the totals, it's the efficiency. Take another look at those shooting percentages. In general, rookies are significantly under-average in terms of shooting efficiency. Yet Kyrie, in a year where he turned 20, was well above league averages in both field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage. The real question is where he's going to go from here. A sophomore leap is to be expected, especially considering that he missed 31 total games last year. Now, his scoring is already elite, and we can assume he'll stay on track in that area. Progress is to be expected, especially after the way he dusted everyone on Team USA. From a simple perusal of his stats, you would guess that the only area in which Kyrie needs significant improvement is in his passing skills, and ability to take care of the ball. Averaging 5.4 assists isn't bad, but it isn't great, and that number gets less impressive when you see that he also averaged 3.1 turnovers a game. That's not a very impressive ratio, but you have to remember who Kyrie was passing to this year. He and Andy had a nice rapport early in the season, but after he was gone, there was very little offensive talent on the team. Alonzo Gee had a nice season, but his offensive repertoire almost entirely consists of dunks. Who else was there to pass to? Manny Harris? Luke Harangody? Tristan Thompson was one of the worst offensive players in basketball, and struggled with dunks and layups. I think it is safe to say that Kyrie lost at least two assists a game from his teammates' inadequacies in 2011-2012. Anderson Varejao will be back at full strength this year, Tristan and Gee will have progressed, and Waiters and Zeller should both be decent at least on offense. The turnovers are still an issue, but his assists should have been, and should be, higher. So, my projected stats for Kyrie this year are as follows.
22.4 PPG, 8.7 APG, 4.2 RPG, .49 FG%, .42 3P%
Any thoughts? Arguments? Insults?