It would sound absurd to suggest that Kyrie Irving – still of the Cleveland Cavaliers – is overrated. In fact, Uncle Drew is largely considered the best one-on-one scoring player in the league. And you always have to be careful these days when you get to absorbed with sports analytics – seeing that they can sometimes contradict other measurements considered important in judging a player.
For example, Kyrie’s PER (Player Efficiency Rating), is way above average sitting at 23.09 from this past year. Yet, somehow, Irving’s floor production without LeBron James on the court showed the Cavaliers as being outscored by 8 points per 100 possessions.
Most concerning: Irving and the Cavs were outscored by 8 points per 100 possessions this season without James on the court, a night-and-day difference from the 9 points per 100 plays they outscored opponents by when Irving played with James. Over the past three seasons, Irving and his teammates have been outscored by 94 points over almost 2,000 minutes when James is resting,6 according to NBA.com. The challenge may be rooted in the fact that Irving’s preferred 1-on-1 style of offense fits with James’s — who can take occasional breathers while his teammate goes to work — but throws his teammates out of rhythm when James is off the floor
If anyone paid attention to the Cavaliers before LeBron came back to Cleveland, they would have known that the Cavs had issues with Kyrie clashing with Dion Waiters. Simply put: Kyrie has always been an extremely fun player to watch, but he’s been stuck in the style of hero ball that dominated the late 1990s and 2000s.
Which brings us to our next graphic that is ridiculous to see considering the NBA has changed from a style that is ball movement, pace and space, moving without the ball and setting screens.
— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) July 26, 2017
What’s all this tell us? Well, most of what anyone who pays close attention to basketball already knows and that’s Kyrie is a ball dominating guard who can score – but might not make his team better. And remember, Chris Paul dribbles the air out of the ball and has done so for years and is considered still the best overall point guard in the game. You could say the same about LeBron James, James Harden, Steph Curry and many other superstar players.
In other words, not everyone is Klay Thompson who can drop 60 points on 11 dribbles. However, most of the aforementioned players listed in the previous paragraph use their dribble to get other players involved by either the direct assist or hockey assist.
But the question becomes, is Irving a true number one banana or better served as playing second fiddle on a championship team?