Irving has hit big shots in the playoffs and the shot to win a championship in Cleveland, but that was as the number two option behind LeBron James. Now he is, as he demanded, the Batman of the talented Celtics. In both before and after his time with LeBron, he has not yet provided any evidence he is capable of being “the guy.”
In today’s NBA, teams are not winning championships absent a prolific scorer, and to the surprise of many, Irving really is not all that prolific of a scorer. Right now there are 16 NBA players with a better average per game than Irving (21.7 points per game.) And it is not like the Celtics can just turn to another player to take on that role. For as much talent as they have, they lack big-time scorers. The second-leading scorer on the team Jayson Tatum is averaging 16.3 ppg.
Led by Irving, Boston so far is one of the worst scoring teams in the NBA, coming in at 24th. The team also is near the bottom in field goal percentage and below average in three-point shooting.
One of the reasons there was so much hype surrounding the Celtics before the season was due to what this team did in the playoffs, going seven games with the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Yet, that has not translated to anything this season. Last year’s run was nothing but fool’s gold as the team overachieved while playing great team basketball without Irving (and Gordon Hayward) against a very bad Eastern Conference. That is not happening this year. The East is far better.
The Raptors, Buck, and 76ers are showing a team without an A-list scoring option is not going to cut it. While those three teams do not have LeBron, the last eight year’s have shown the best player in the East has trumped depth and coaching. The Raptors and Bucks have Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo – both better than Irving – along with more than solid complementary pieces. The 76ers have at least two players better than Boston’s best.
Yes, it is early, but not too early to point out things may not get all that better in Boston. This is a deep team with several All-Star caliber players. It is also a team with players that do not fit together and without a quintessential superstar.