As the world waits for Kyrie Irving to get traded, one half-truth that keeps circulating has irritated me: “Kyrie Irving did nothing before LeBron James.”
I tried to address that here, but for those of you who missed it, here are the real facts:
When LeBron left Cleveland for Miami in 2010, it was as if a nuclear bomb went off: It decimated the organization for years. The year after LeBron left, they went 19-63, had the 2nd worst record in the NBA, and had historically bad roster. Antwan Jamison, who was 34 years old, led them in scoring, followed by 22-year old JJ Hickson.
Then Kyrie Irving arrived. The roster was terrible. Still, at 19 years old, he averaged 18.5 ppg, 5.4 apg and shot 46/39/87 in 51 games. The Cavs didn’t improve with a young roster the next two years: Cleveland went from 21 to 24 to 33 wins.
But Irving was brilliant:
20-years old: 22.5 ppg, 5.9 apg, 45/39/85, PER: 18th
21-years old: 20.8 ppg, 6.1 apg, 43/35/86. PER: 27th
I love Damian Lillard, but he entered the NBA at age 22. By that age, Kyrie Irving had already played three seasons on a horrible team. Lillard played his rookie year with three players better than anyone Irving had until LeBron arrived: LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews.
Yes, Kyrie Irving didn’t win anything in Cleveland without LeBron. But he also didn’t have anyone on his team, and he wasn’t near his prime. Even the greatness of LeBron at 19 and 20 couldn’t get Cleveland into the playoffs. And LeBron is the 2nd best player in NBA history.