The NBA will unveil the reserves for the All Star Game in Houston tomorrow night, and there’s only one thing I’ll be watching for: whether Kyrie Irving’s name, as deserved, makes the cut. Irving, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ sophomore point guard, is on pace for a tremendous season, even besting his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2011-12. And I’d even argue Irving is quickly developing into the league’s premier point guard, at least on the offensive end.
Start with the stats. In 32 starts — he missed 11 games with a broken left index finger — Irving’s averaging close to 24 points and 6 assists a night, for a team that’s 11-32. And he’s doing it without his best running mate, Anderson Varejao, who’s out for the season, and with guys like Luke Walton — I mean, Luke Walton — getting crunch-time minutes. Irving shoots a ridiculous 47% from the field, 84% from the foul stripe and 40% from 3.
VIDEO EVIDENCE: Kyrie worked Boston Celtics’ point guard Rajon Rondo, whom the fans voted the Eastern Conference starter in Houston, and Avery Bradley last night, dropping 40 points on 16-24 shooting at The Q.
Irving leads all NBA one-guards in scoring, 0.7 points ahead of the shoot-first Russell Westbrook and 4.7 ahead of the East’s No. 2, Jrue Holiday, whose 9 assists a game also have him deserving of an All Star bid. Irving’s third among Eastern Conference point guards in field goal percentage, trailing Rondo and Jose Calderon, and second in three-point percentage, trailing just Calderon. But his comparably weak assist-to-turnover ratio, 5.7 assists and 3.7 turnovers a night, drops him to second in PER, behind Kyle Lowry.
And it’s the intangibles Irving brings, as well — the clutch gene, nifty handles, outside shooting, toughness and competitive spirit (ask Kobe Bryant), the list goes on and on. He’s single-handedly taken over fourth quarters this year against premier talents, namely Kobe, and came out on top with inferior talent beside him. In his rookie year — his rookie year — Irving’s 6.4 points per fourth quarter ranked fourth in the Association.
There is some bad, though, as Irving still needs to make tremendous strides as a defender to be considered among the league’s elite. By all accounts, he’s improved this year over last, but a consistent effort, though difficult when so much is asked of him on the offensive end, would go a long way. Even so, Irving’s complete offensive package has to rank him right up there with Chris Paul, another former Byron Scott prodigy, as the league’s best.
The NBA needs to get it right … and send Kyrie Irving to Houston.