There was a considerable number of people who didn't think Kyrie Irving deserved to be on Team USA for the FIBA World Cup.
Whether they were right or not, he made the team. And whether they were right or not, he ended up being one of the very best players in a tournament that saw his USA team win the gold medal in blowout fashion Sunday afternoon 129-92 over Serbia. Irving was named MVP of the tournament. Irving was good throughout the tournament, but he saved his best for the final. He finished with 26 points on thirteen shots, going 6-6 from three point range.
For the United States, this was a dominant run even without LeBron James, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Dwight Howard, Paul George or Carmelo Anthony. While the result of a game that didn't happen against Spain may have been able to trip the team up, we will never know, and it hardly matters. No team in the field was able to challenge a US team that was simply too athletic and skilled. This was the 63rd consecutive victory the Americans in international basketball competition, and it guarantees a spot in the 2016 Summer Olympics. That incarnation of the USA men's team is likely to have three Cavaliers in Irving, James, and Love.
Irving started all nine games of the World Cup. Heading into today's game, Irving had been shooting 52% from the field and 47% from three point range. He averaged over two steals a game, and his defensive intensity appeared better than what Mike Brown was able to get from him on a nightly basis. To a certain extent, this makes sense. For the Cavaliers, Irving needed to exert himself on the offensive end. With the national team, there was less pressure on him to score and he could play a more well-rounded game. Of course, that's the nice way of looking at it. This isn't even to say his defense was great. He is still twenty-two years old and physically can't handle a lot of screens. But when you are talking about the MVP of the tournament, what are you really talking about if you spend your time fixated on Irving's defense?
David Griffin has spoken of the benefits playing for Team USA will have for Irving. Kyrie made it through the tournament largely unscathed injury wise, and he can take a little over a week off before the Cavaliers get things going with media day. It's hard to believe the Cavaliers could have anticipated such a successful summer for Irving, but that is so much about what this summer has been in general. A year ago at this time people were ready for Irving to turn himself into a top 10 NBA player. Might that occur this year? It's hard to say how things will look with the new Cavaliers, but the signs are certainly good.