Besides all of the Kevin Love trade talk swirling around the Cleveland Cavaliers this week, there were a couple of rumors involving another member of the “Big Three”, and that would be Kyrie Irving.
The wine and gold social media went crazy, insisting Irving is untouchable.
A bit of truth here. One of the trade scenarios was Cleveland dealing Irving to Phoenix for the fourth overall pick in last week’s draft, and guard Eric Bledsoe, who averaged 21 points and six assists per game.
The Cavs would have spun that pick to Indiana for Paul George, giving the Cavaliers a starting five of LeBron James, Bledsoe, George, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson.
Our confession is we would have done that deal.
Look, we have said this before, Kyrie Irving is a gifted basketball player. There may not be another player in the NBA who is as creative around the basket as Irving.
And he made the greatest shot in the history of the franchise with the go ahead basket in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals.
He will always be a “made man” in Cleveland sports because of that.
But let’s not pretend Irving is perfect and doesn’t have room for improvement.
First, he doesn’t put forth a lot of effort on defense. We know that many stars pick their spots defensively, and we get that. That’s happened in the NBA for 40 years or more.
The problem for Irving is he takes entire games off defensively and there is no excuse for that. As the great John Wooden said, the same skills that make players great on the offensive end can be used to play great defense.
Irving’s quickness can get him to the basket on any possession within a game, so it can be used to stay in front of his man on defense too.
The other criticism of Irving is when James is off the floor, the ball sticks in his hands as he waits for an opening to drive. On a team who plays its best when the ball moves, this is frustrating to watch.
Check out these numbers from last season:
When Kyrie has 10+ assists in a game: Cavs record is 8-0
9+ assists: 11-2
8+ assists: 12-5
7+ assists: 20-7
3 or less assists: 6-10
When Irving takes 25 or more shots in a game, the wine and gold is just 4-5. There is no mistaking that when Kyrie Irving is moving the ball, the Cavaliers are a much better team.
And by the way, in those 10+ assist games? Irving scored more than 25 points in five of them. The ability to score and pass is there.
Because he is so gifted and just 25 years old, we have confidence that Irving will continue to improve and learn the game.
On the other hand, if you view his game realistically, he isn’t one of the top five point guards in the NBA. We would rank Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden better than the Cavs’ point guard.
Would our choice be to trade Irving? No, but we wouldn’t deal Kevin Love either. We are just saying that anyone can be tradeable if it makes the team better, and that Irving shouldn’t be untouchable because he made “The Shot”.
He’s not in the same class as LeBron James, yet.