Player Profile: Kyrie Irving

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If you were born before March 23, 1992 as I was, then we are both officially older than the first overall selection in last year’s NBA draft.

After posting a 19-63 record in their first season since losing Lebron, the lottery fell in Cleveland’s favor and they were rewarded the first overall pick in the 2011 draft.

Despite playing in just 11 collegiate games, Kyrie Irving’s name was called by the Cavaliers on draft day.

A rare one-and-done from Duke, the young point guard never was given the opportunity to fully flaunt his skill set last season. A toe injury held Irving out for most of the season, but he was still able to average 17 points and four assists in 27 minutes a game as a freshman.

After an NCAA tournament showcased Derrick Williams’ ability to take over a game, many questioned what Cleveland would do atop the 2011 draft.

With solid point guards Baron Davis and Ramon Sessions already on the roster, many thought Cleveland might opt to take the forward because of the team’s needs. Cleveland chose to go with Irving and subsequently cut ties with Davis.

So far, so good. Not only has Derrick Williams struggled mightily as a member of the Timberwolves, but Kyrie Irving is forcing NBA analysts to put him in the same breath as superstars like Derrick Rose.

When comparing Irving’s rookie season to last year’s MVP rookie campaign, it’s tough to come away unimpressed.

Despite averaging seven minutes less per game, Irving is averaging more points than Rose on better shooting percentages.

Irving has made 41 percent of his three point attempts, while Rose’s career best over four seasons is 33 percent. Irving’s field goal mark of 49 percent is also better than any mark Derrick Rose has produced in his career.

Now would be a good time to remind you that he is still only 19 years old.

While it would be inaccurate to say Irving is already on Rose’s level, there is nothing stopping Irving from one day emerging as one of the NBA’s best point guards. Though he is not blessed with the same freakish athleticism as Rose, Irving boasts a fundamentally sound game that has many comparing his abilities to Chris Paul.

Irving’s capacity to understand the game at such a young age, finish with both hands around the basket and shoot the ball with excellent efficiency should have Cleveland fans thinking championship in the latter parts of this decade.

One thing Irving will look to improve in the coming seasons is his defense.

Considering Irving has participated in just 34 games above the high school level, it’s understandable that he isn’t yet accustomed to guarding the quickest players the NBA has to offer. He likely had never faced a player with similar athleticism until just over a year ago.

Surrounding Irving with talent in a small market like Cleveland may be difficult, but what’s harder is finding a player to build around, and Cleveland has certainly done that.

Expect Cleveland to add another capable scorer on the wing to compliment Irving in the upcoming drafts and free agency.

 

With Anderson Varejao and the developing Tristan Thompson already on the roster, Cleveland should once again emerge as contenders in the not so distant future.