There’s a 21-year-old kid who has played two NBA seasons for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He’s wowed people with his prowess as an offensive player, his playmaking ability, and how easy the game comes to him when he’s on the floor. There are talks that this kid, despite playing just two years in the league, could be on the verge of becoming a superstar.
This kid, of course, is Kyrie Irving. In 59 games last year for the Cavs, Irving turned a ton of heads, averaging 22.5 points, 5.9 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 34.7 minutes per game and also shot a solid 45.2 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from three. Irving showed special proficiency on offense in isolation sets. In 399 of those sets, Irving averaged 1.03 points per possession, the eighth best rate in the league.
However, one has to wonder what’s next for Irving and what he has to do to be considered a superstar. After all, his team finished just 24-58 last season and he’s still only considered a budding star in the NBA. What can he do to get both his team and himself over the hump?
One of the first things that comes to mind is his assist numbers. Last season, Irving ranked just 35th among guards who started more than half of their teams games in terms of assist ratio at 20.1 percent, meaning 20.1 percent of his possessions ended with an assist. A lot of that is due to the help surrounding Irving, but it also has to do with his willingness as a playmaker with his passing.
However, the biggest thing that Irving needs to do next season is improve his defense. There’s a perception that Irving was awful defensively last season, but that was largely because of bad team defense. In terms of his individual defensive performance, he was around the middle of the pack. He allowed 0.85 points per possession which ranked 149th in the league. However, it would be great to see Irving affect the game more with his defense, namely causing more turnovers and forcing opponents to make more poor decisions.
Essentially, Irving needs improve upon the secondary parts of his game. He is an elite scorer and playmaker, but he needs to become more adept at making plays for his teammates and has to show improvement defensively. If those things start to happen, we’re going to have to give Irving the vaunted “superstar” label.