Warning: The information you’re about to read from ESPN is going to make your head hurt.
Only 24, Irving is averaging a career-best 24.2 ppg, and he’s having the best shooting season of his career 47/41/89. But according to ESPN, Kyrie Irving isn’t elite because:
* He helps very little on the boards, grabbing fewer than three defensive rebounds a game.
* his blocked shot numbers are atrocious; he has managed only four blocks this season and has barely 100 blocks for his six-year career
* In every one of Irving’s six seasons, his teams have played worse defense when he was on the court, a rare feat
* Last season, Irving posted a negative real plus-minus (RPM), meaning that his team was better with him sitting. This season, while his RPM is a net positive, his defensive RPM ranks 390th in the NBA.
We all know the deal with stats – we use what works for us. There’s zero mention anywhere of those Cavs teams with Kyrie before LeBron came. For starters, Kyrie Irving was 19 as a rookie (and played less than a dozen games at Duke), then 20, then 21.
Anyone look at those Cavs rosters? Take the year before LeBron arrived. The #1 pick was Anthony Bennett. Disaster. They had 2 veterans over 30: Jarrett Jack (currently out of the NBA) and Anderson Varejao (basically a player-assistant coach in Golden State).
The rest of the team? Journeyman Spencer Hawes, Luol Deng, 22-year old Tristan Thompson and selfish Dion Waiters. Gregg Popovich couldn’t have won with that group. We’re going to criticize Irving for not winning with those guys?
I love Stephen Curry and enjoy being the president of his fan club, but he didn’t win until Steve Kerr showed up, changed the system, and turned Draymond Green from 2nd round pick into an All-Star. You can play this game with many stars over the years.
As for the other statistical nit-picking, is there really a ton of value in having your 6-foot-3 point guard not rebound? He’s 17th among point guards in steals per game this year, ahead of Goran Dragic, Dennis Schroder, Isaiah Thomas, Damian Lillard and Derrick Rose.
Kyrie Irving is a Top 10 player in the NBA right now. That’s undeniable.