RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Kyrie IrvingPosted by nvr1983 on June 22nd, 2011
Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 23, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night. There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.
Player Name: Kyrie Irving
Height/Weight: 6’3/190 lbs.
NBA Position: Point Guard
Projected Draft Range: #1 Overall
Overview: Irving opened his career at Duke playing about as well as anybody could have expected a freshman point guard to play so early in his career even considering the ideal situation he joined (playing on a defending national champion with two of its top players — Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith — returning). Irving was playing so well that by the time Duke’s national championship game rematch against Butler rolled around on December 4 he had established himself as the top player on a loaded team and the runaway choice as national player of the year. Then Irving injured his toe and appeared lost for the season but made a return in the NCAA Tournament where he was solid, but clearly not playing like he had before the injury (excepting one half against Arizona in the Sweet Sixteen). Despite his abbreviated season, Irving showed more than enough to NBA scouts and executives to make him the clear-cut #1 choice to the Cleveland Cavaliers in this year’s NBA Draft. Although his lack of world-class athleticism makes many observers question whether he will ever become a true star in the NBA, there is little doubt he will be a solid player based on his already well-developed all-court game as he appears to have no real weakness in terms of his skill set.
Will Translate to the NBA: A point guard that everybody on his team will love playing with. One of the most interesting aspects of Irving’s single season at Duke was not his impressive early-season performances, but instead it was his ability to take command of a senior-laden team without any evidence of a fracture in team chemistry. The freshman guard will be a good starting point guard in the NBA for years and his ability to hit from outside and penetrate will make him a coach’s dream. The big question with Irving from an NBA standpoint is what his ceiling is. Ten years ago this probably would not have been an issue, but with the recent point guard renaissance and the appearance of ridiculously athletic point guards like Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook in the NBA, it becomes a significant issue for a #1 overall pick. Kyrie will probably never contend for an MVP award and might not even make many All-Star teams, but he is one of the most complete point guards you will find coming out of college and maybe the most complete freshman point guard in years.
Needs Work: Obviously his athleticism is his big weakness (at least compared to the truly elite point guards in the NBA), but Irving could definitely become a little bit stronger to help make up for some of the difference he lacks in explosiveness. He will also need to show that he can defend at the NBA level. One of the major problems with his abbreviated season was that our exposure to him defending good guards was extremely limited. While he looked competent in the moments that we saw, doing it on a consistent basis is a completely different matter as is defending NBA point guards. Another thing that we are waiting to see is if he can regain the explosiveness that he had showed before his mysterious toe injury and failed to show afterward even in his singular excellent performance against Arizona. If he can regain that explosiveness and build on it, we might need to adjust our assessment on his ceiling.
Comparison Players: When we watch Irving we see a less polished version of Chris Paul. While some may say it is due to the fact that both play well below the rim it is more about how they seem to control the court and navigate their way around while directing the players on their team to get into the right positions and still being able to score when they need to. Right now Irving has a long way to go in terms of directing his teammates on the court to be anywhere near Paul’s level, but it seems like an apt comparison especially given their ability to shoot from outside and create around the basket even though neither is exceptionally quick. Kyrie would do well to study game tapes of Paul, because as CP3 showed in the playoffs against Los Angeles, when he is playing well he plays the position about as well as anyone has ever played it and does it without freakish athleticism.
Best Case Scenario: Best case scenario is that he becomes something like a poor man’s Chris Paul. He seems to have all the physical tools and the requisite feel for the game to become a fantastic point guard, but we have a hard time getting our arms around the idea that Irving could ever become as good as Chris Paul. Still that possibility is out there. More realistically he can probably hope to be somewhere between the elite point guards (the Chris Pauls and Derrick Roses) and the second tier (Raymond Feltons and Jameer Nelsons). In any other era this would make him a star, but there are at least five point guards approaching what should be their primes that will be stealing the spotlight from him.
2014 Projection: Irving should adapt to life in the NBA relatively easily and should be close to a 15 PPG and 7 APG point guard by his third year in the NBA. Like we said earlier, Irving’s upside may be limited in terms of a #1 overall pick, but he is also extremely unlikely to be a bust (barring a major injury). At this point in his career he should be a solid second-tier point guard in the league. Normally we would expect a freshman coming out of college to struggle against NBA-level competition, but we don’t see many freshman point guards with his mix of overall skills and poise that often.
Best NBA Fit: This is a little more difficult (or easier) to project than most because in a worst case scenario, Irving would be the #2 overall pick. When looking at it from that perspective we have to say Cleveland is the right choice. Obviously Minnesota would be enticing with Kevin Love, but we can’t imagine that even David Kahn would be dense enough to draft Irving with Jonny Flynn there and Ricky Rubio coming in from Spain. He will also be treated well by the fans in Cleveland who are desperate to get a winner back in town and should appreciate his all-court game which maybe not be as awe-inspiring as his predecessor, but should be enough to get the Cavaliers out of the Eastern Conference cellar.
Scout’s Take (Chris Denker from Netscouts Basketball): “a CP3 type… quick with the ball and without it… better shooter than advertised… highly efficient and has the potential to be a leader… he’s not off the charts athletic, but he’s very crafty and smart between the ears.”