What do I mean by that? This kid is good. Sure, the Cavs aren’t very good and they haven’t been since he’s been there. But Irving has shown us through his short stint in the league that he’s going to be one of the best point guards that the league has to offer in a few years.
The promise that Irving has doesn’t lie in what he does when he makes the ball drop through the bucket. His plethora of dribble moves that enable him to get into the paint with limited athletic explosion are amazing. Sure, his handle is amazing but that’s a common thing in the NBA. Most of these point guards have the same kind of moves in their arsenal. What makes Irving greater than most point guards is the concentration that he has when shooting off of the dribble. He’s one of the best players in the league at it.
Last night he scored the first points against the Los Angeles Lakers off of an isolation jumper. This isn’t an ideal possession, but its fine when you have Irving with the ball. Take a look at the play for yourselves.
There are several components of that isolation that got Kyrie Irving freed up. First, he freezes the defender with the pump fake first to get him to bite, next he uses a behind the back dribble that puts the defender on his back heels which creates the separation. Irving then uses a patented spin move to get two feet of space between he and the defender and that creates an open look.
Think about how advanced that is for a moment. To be able to keep your concentration on the rim after completing a spin is a veteran move. He’s already two steps ahead of the game–the head of the class. He’s not only producing eye popping numbers but he’s doing it in ways that you wouldn’t expect.
Not only can he score the ball very well, he’s also very good at working the pick and roll. More so than most point guards are at 20 years old. There were two instances in the fourth quarter last night where he showed us exactly that. They are as follows.
Here is the first play.
The Cavs start off by running C.J Miles off of three straight screens. One by Omri Casspi, another by Tristan Thompson, and another by Tyler Zeller. Irving follows the play call and delivers the ball to Miles after he finishes running through the screens, but the Lakers defend it well. They make the proper rotations as Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace cover Miles.
The ball goes back to Irving and he swings it to Casspi on the other wing for a possible three point attempt. The problem is that the ball wasn’t moved fast enough and the Lakers were able to reset their defense. After realizing he has nothing, Casspi passes the ball back to Irving.
This is when the ‘random’ offense starts. All good point guards are good at materializing plays from a simple thing such as a screen or a cut. Irving does that using the screen that Zeller gives to him once the play breaks down.
Irving has five seconds to work with once he makes the catch, but he doesn’t panic and start pounding the ball. Instead, he rejects the screen and the Laker defenders form a pocket around him.
He uses three dribbles, including a crossover, to freeze the defense while going to the right. Then he moves the ball forward going by his defender and starts to use his in-and-out dribble. He gets by the initial defender and the Dwight Howard springs forward to try and prevent him from getting to the rim.
Irving then uses another in and out dribble to get Howard to move to his right and open up space to the left. He does this because he recognizes that there are no Lakers at the rim and it would result in a positive play for the Cavs. Irving uses a long dribble to get into the open space on the left and then takes off to the rim for the and-1 attempt.
Irving used only six dribbles from about 35-38 feet out of the basket. He created a possession in which his team would score three points with only five seconds left on the shot clock as well. I don’t think I can name more than five guards who can do that in the league.
Here’s the next play.
Irving rejects another screen–this time from Anderson Varejao. Varejao slips the screen and pops to the top of the arch. Irving keeps the defense at bay with his dribble as he reads everyone’s positioning on the floor. Again, he sees that Howard is focused on keeping him from getting to the rim and they’re giving a weak trap. This leaves the middle of the floor wide open.
The rest of the Lakers help defenders are focused on staying with their given assignments. When Varejao dives to the rim, he attacks the weakest part of the double team–the middle. Irving has the wherewithal to give the perfect bounce pass through the middle of the defense at a perfect angle to get Varejao to the rim.
If the Chris Paul comparisons weren’t valid a few years ago, Irving made them come back to life last night. I think he’s a very good player but I don’t think he’s on the level of Chris Paul yet. He has do make those plays that he made last night on a consistent basis before he can be in the same class as Paul–not to mention his defense needs improvement.
Of course, he’s only 20 years old. His development process has only just begun and the game last night was only a taste of what we’ll get out of Irving in the future. I look forward to watching him play many, many games in a Cavs uniform.