A lot of people from coaches, to players, analysts, bloggers, and the normal fans have extremely different opinions on Kyrie Irving. There seems to be two extremes on him. One side saying he is better than two-time league MVP Steph Curry, to those that do not believe he is a top 20 player in the league and should be compared to the likes of a Kemba Walker. Personally both of those seem far fetched. Kyrie is an amazing scorer and too many people seem to generalize him into this guy who does nothing to help his team and is just out for his.
There is a reason everyone around the league has been coming out saying how much they would love to play with him. Despite what many of us (yes I have included myself in the list of Kyrie haters) talking heads say the guys out there on the court respect the hell out of him. That is more than worth mentioning.
Then there is the flip side which would confuse someone who is not aware of the two sides.
Where does Kyrie truly lie in the spectrum of great NBA players?
Kyrie is one of the best players in the world at getting buckets. Hate to break it to everyone, but the goal of the game is to score more points than the other team and he does it with the best of them. He ranked 11th in scoring this past season while shooting 53.5%eFG. Only players who scored at a higher rate and efficiency was Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Steph Curry, and Isaiah Thomas. This level of scoring is nothing to scoff at. He is in the 95th percentile of scoring in isolations and in the 79th percentile of drive and kicks off of those isolations. The idea that he does not help with his gravity is not true. A player that demands as much attention as Kyrie does, makes everything easier for the other guys.
Kyrie as a secondary ball-handler has proven to be an effective passer. The only players to score at least 35 points per 100 possessions and reach an assist percentage of 29% was Isaiah Thomas, Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and guess again Kyrie Irving. He is a much better passer than he is given credit for, because he is overshadowed by playing with one of the greatest passers to ever step onto the hardwood in LeBron James.
Then there is the debate on his impact towards winning games. There are many players who put up good numbers and are unable to win, just look at the two big men in New Orleans. Is the criticism fair of Kyrie? Many point to his years prior to playing with LeBron. Kyrie was 19 when he came into the league and 22 by the time LeBron arrived back home. Just over the past 17 years I have been unable to find a player with comparable talent to what Kyrie had his first 3 years and at least make .500 for the season. The closest one I have found was LeBron in the 2005-06 season and in my book LeBron is the 2nd greatest player ever. I think it is fair to say that we should not have expected Kyrie to make the playoffs on that team, not to mention his first two seasons he did not even play 60 games. He has gotten this narrative that he is a loser without the player who might go down as the greatest. While that may be factually true it lacks context.
LeBron anytime he has been on a team he has an incredible on/off impact. You will not find a season where he is not one of the top 3 players in this particular stat. There is a reason for it that is not solely his own greatness similar to that of soon to be Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. LeBron is the system wherever he goes. The teams he plays funnel everything through him. When practices and training camps are going on they are no doubt working on things they wish to do for the whole season. The team wants the ball in LeBron’s hand every chance he can. When you have a player that is so integrated into every aspect of your team it would seem like common sense that there would be a major drop-off whenever that player is taking rest day. This is what Kyrie has been a victim to. Whenever LeBron take a day off on February 25th, after playing the previous 25 games in a row do you expect the team to be run the same was as they did when he was playing? Nobody can do what LeBron does on the court and going forward with the idea of he will always be there in the playoffs I think it would be fair to say the team did not work nearly as much on how to prepare whenever he is not there.
I do not believe we have been granted the opportunity to see how Kyrie can impact a team with the pieces capable to win games. He is only 25 and has already proven himself to be a big time player in the postseason. Which brings up the many Kyle Lowry comparisons. Lowry is a tremendous player in the regular season. He has little to prove there, but when the big lights come on and everyone is watching he falls apart. Many people scoff at the idea of Kyrie being better, but Kyrie in postseason is better across the board. Whichever statistics you favor it will be in Kyrie’s favor. BPM, WS/48, efficiency, PER, or any other form of statistic that encapsulates a player’s share towards the betterment of his team favors Kyrie. There is a reason David Robinson is not considered better than Kobe. David Robinson has an amazing case for being the better regular season player, but when the lights came on The Admiral went AWOL. Why should it be any different in this scenario?
On a team with a real chance to edge into the playoffs Kyrie could take to another level. Kyrie is such a big time playoff performer that if he was placed on a team that was to get swept in the first round he could turn that around into a winning series. Being able to hit shots like this is nothing to push aside.
Kyrie is not a perfect player, and that is not what attempting to show. Kyrie still has a problem seeing double teams before they come to truly pick apart a defense, like what Steph Curry does. He is an awful defender, one of the worst in the league in fact. Even with that his team does not have the chaotic drop off the Celtics have defensively when Isaiah is on the floor. Things like this will need to be fixed, because whatever team Kyrie ends up on will not be good enough to simply outscore the other team like the Cavaliers did all season long.
Kyrie is not taking the Brooklyn Nets or the Sacramento Kings to the playoffs. There are few players in the league who could have that sort of instant win impact on a team that diluted of talent. If Kyrie could get on a team like Miami he could be big time as the best player on a team that could make it past the first round. There are many people saying he cannot win games the way he plays, but the Raptors won 68% of their games without Kyle Lowry which means they did just fine with the way Demarr is a black hole, and Kyrie is a much more efficient scorer while also being a more willing passer. He is one of the top 12-13 player in the NBA. All the players around the league and Kyrie’s own teammate confirm this. It is time he is given the respect he deserves.