With the hoopla going on between LeBron James‘ return to the Cleveland Cavaliers and the team subsequently trading for star power forward Kevin Love, many seem to be forgetting that the first piece of the Cavs offseason was inking guard and former No. 1 overall pick Kyrie Irving to a multi-year extension with the club.
This move set everything else in motion, and was a big reason as to why James decided to take his talents to northeast Ohio and pair up with the up-and-coming 22-year-old point guard.
Irving had a somewhat difficult year last season, shooting only 43 percent from the field and 36 percent from three-point land. The weight of carrying a makeshift Cavs team appeared to sometimes be too much for him, with Irving sometimes electing to go for “hero-ball” mode instead of playing the game as he knows best.
Now that he has long-term contract security and peace of mind that his team will be in terrific shape moving forward with the acquisitions they made over the offseason, it is time for Irving to fully break through and become a superstar in this league.
He already possesses blazing quickness and a pure shooting stroke, to compliment his strong understanding of the game. At 6-foot-3 and 193 pounds, he is the ideal size for a starting point guard in the NBA. He has a calm demeanor and elects to show his leadership through a quiet, though, confident nature.
No one had high expectations for the Cavs before the 2014-15 NBA season. If Irving somehow got the Cavs to the playoffs once in his first three seasons, even in a weakened Eastern Conference, it would have been considered an incredible accomplishment for both him and the organization. But that did not happen, and some feared Irving might leave the Cavs after his rookie contract was up, leaving them upset just like when James went to the Miami Heat in 2010.
Instead, by pledging his loyalty to the Cavs this past summer, and showing his faith in GM David Griffin that he would surround him with the right group of players in order to be successful, Irving has to be feeling very good about “The Decision” made by him in signing on long-term with the ball club.
Now, it is Irving’s time to embrace the spotlight. The Cavs will be on national TV much more than they have been during his first three seasons. Expectations are high for Irving in particular, considering the talent he has and the players who will be in the starting five with him.
He has had a great run with Team USA over this summer, and he needs to channel that same energy he has put in with the national team into this upcoming season with the Cavs.
The Cavs will undoubtedly go through a few rough spots in the year. Analysts will probably ask the question if James “made the right choice” in leaving the Heat, or if Irving himself might be “overrated” when he has a bad game or two in a row. He is already an All-Star talent in the league, but now he must take his game to another level if the Cavs are to make it out of the East and contend for an NBA championship. They are certainly the favorites to come out of the conference right now, but it will take the leadership of Irving, James and Love for them to live up to their massive expectations.
Irving needs to become a better passer, as he has only averaged 5.8 APG during his short career. With James and Love, those numbers will definitely go up slightly, but it is up to Irving to work on his passing game and find ways to get his teammates open for good shots. That is a skill every great point guard in the league must have if they want to be successful.
Will Irving shine bright in Cleveland? I believe he will.
It will be a fascinating season for the Cavs. Although most of the attention will rightly be on James and Love as the new guys on the team and what they can bring, it is time for Irving to take on even more leadership and help this Cavs team get to where they want to go, and that is an NBA championship.