Irving, the top overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft(via the Los Angeles Clippers) averaged 18.5 points, 5.4 assists and shot 46.9 percent from the field. Irving also shot 87.2 percent from the free-throw line and 39.9 percent from three-point range and go on to be named the 2011-12 Kia NBA Rookie Of The Year.
In an effort to relieve Irving of the scoring burden, Cleveland drafted shooting guard Dion Waiters out of Syracuse and bolstered their front line by acquiring the draft rights of North Carolina 7’0″ center Tyler Zeller from the Dallas Mavericks.
Cleveland also acquired veteran help on the wings by signing five-year veteran small forward Kelenna Azubuike from Dallas and former Utah Jazz swingman C.J. Miles to a two-year deal. If the Cavs hope to contend and sneak into the playoffs as an eighth seed in the East, they will need Irving to stay fully healthy, as he has shown that he may have durability issues.
While at Duke, Irving only played in a total of 11 games before missing the remainder of his only season in Durham due to a toe injury. With the Cavaliers he missed ten games due to a sprained right shoulder. This past summer, Irving broke a bone in his hand while slapping a padded wall at a Team USA training camp. Irving missed all of summer league play and required surgery that caused him to miss 6-8 weeks.
With word out of Cleveland that Irving is on track to be fully healthy, the second-year star has a chance to establish himself as one of the top point guards in the league.
With the NBA being a guard-driven—as opposed to center-driven—league now, Irving may have the chance to do so by playing against top guards in the East such as Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo and Deron Williams. Other point guards in the East such as Brandon Jennings, D.J Augustin, John Wall and Raymond Felton will give Irving a showcase to prove his talent.
If Irving can replicate his stellar rookie season, look for the Cavaliers to make a run for the playoffs in the 2012-13 season and for Irving to establish himself as one of the top point guards in the East—if not the NBA.
Robert D. Cobb is the NBA Network Manager for Rant Media Network, Featured Writer of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Featured Columnist for the Cleveland Browns and Arsenal Gunners.
In addition to covering the NBA, I also cover MLB, NFL, NHL and Champions League soccer news, rumors and opinions, please follow me on Twitter at@RobertCobb_76