As sports fans these days, we almost can’t watch a young player emerge on a stage like the NBA for the first time without immediately trying to answer this question: so who is he like then? As if every single player has this other guy who ten or fifteen or thirty years before him previously entered the NBA with the exact same skill set, mentality, and instincts, and played his career to a proverbial ceiling that we can now expect for said rookie moving forward.
I’m not saying that’s wrong, everybody does it, maybe we can blame Mel Kiper for that phenomenon, but regardless I am going to share my thoughts on that subject as they pertain to Kyrie Irving.
It’s important for me to first note that I do not believe Kyrie Irving’s game is specifically similar to any one player. I think he’s uniquely gifted, and that he’s a different kind of good, especially compared to the other great young PG’s who’ve entered the League recently. Kyrie is a cerebral point guard, who has demonstrated the ability and desire to get his teammates involved so far, but he will also be a guy who leads his team in scoring eventually too at the same time. He’s a facilitator, but also a closer, or he will be a closer, but even with that scoring ability Kyrie is still a throwback in a traditional PG sense as well.
Irving is not an overwhelming athlete who plays the position (Russell Westbrook), a scoring guard who plays the one (Derrick Rose), and he can shoot it better than the guy (Rondo) I think is the most underrated PG in the League too. If I had to pick one guy in the NBA, past or present, that Kyrie is most similar too I wouldn’t pick one. But I do think that his game can be most accurately compared to a combination of Steve Nash, John Stockton, and Chris Paul.
Like Nash, as the Cavaliers continue to build this team moving forward with more scoring options around Irving, I see Kyrie becoming one of the three or four guys in the mix as the League’s assist leader on an annual basis. I can see Irving possibly dishing out around 9 or 10 assists per game to go along with scoring an average of 17 or 18 points per night as well. Sorta like what Nash did annually back when he first got out to Phoenix. I also think Irving will be a guy who shoots the three over 42% or so for his career like Steve has.
Unlike Nash though, Kyrie’s assists and passes in general come from more fundamentally sound angles. Kyrie is more likely to thread the needle by ripping off a two-handed bounce pass than he is to whirl something around behind his head while doing a 360. He’s more of a John Stockton type passer. Stockton couldn’t score like Irving, but I think Irving approaches the game, and more importantly the point guard position, in a similar way to Stockton. Kind of more like capitalizing on fundamental ways to facilitate rather than creating new ways of passing like Nash has.
There certainly are comparisons to Chris Paul too, but I think a lot of that has to do with CP3 being the best point guard though more than anything else. I don’t think Kyrie is as lightning quick as CP3, and I think Paul is more of a scorer than Irving both in his approach as well as his ability. Their body types are different too, in the sense that Kyrie (6’3″) is 3″ taller than Chris (6’0″). But Paul is certainly the best overall PG in the game right now hands down, and I do think they’re similar in the sense that Kyrie is an overall point guard too – as opposed to a scoring guard if that makes sense.
So anyways, I just compared a guy who’s played nine NBA games to three Hall of Famers and arguably three of the best point guards to ever play the game. I hope I’m not setting the bar too high here for the kid. In any event, it will be kinda fun and maybe historic in some senses to see Kyrie match-up with the great Steve Nash tonight for the first time on an NBA stage. I know I’m looking forward to that.
Crash The Boards And Beat The Suns:
The Phoenix Suns are 4-5 and they just lost to the Lakers 99-83. Like every other team in the NBA they are better at home though, but unlike any other team in the NBA they have also given up a league-worst average of 13.7 offensive rebounds per game this season. That’s not good, but it will create a number of second chance opportunities in and around the basket tonight for the Cavaliers if they attack the glass. Antawn Jamison, I’m talking to you my man, be sure to follow your heaves tonight buddy. If you do, it is not inconceivable that you’ll get 34 shots off in this one as result. Two per possession basically.
As far as that Nash v. Irving match-up is concerned, even with 15 NBA years in his rear-view Stevie boy is still the best player on his team. He’s averaging 12 points and 10 rebounds so far this season, and as he goes so go his Suns. Irving will be a tough test for him though, because fresh off going for 20 and 5 last time out Kyrie is averaging 17 points per game through his last seven. He is leading all Rookies in scoring with 16, as I’m sure you knew, and also second overall in assists amongst his peers with 5.6.
The rest of Phoenix’s team isn’t really helping Nash out too much. Marcin Gortat is averaging 12 and 7, Jared Dudley and Hakim Warrick are averaging 11, Grant Hill 9, and the Rookie from Kansas Markieff Morris is averaging 8 and 6 off the bench.
Tip off is at 10 pm ET tonight. Don’t sleep through this one, should be fun.