Coming into a year filled with controversy, Kyrie Irving’s mission was to show us he belonged. Many critics weren’t entirely sure how well the young guard would gel with the “King.” Many criticized his leadership qualities and ability to lead a team to a successful season. After making his 2nd consecutive All-Star game last year and also winning All-Star MVP, Irving also needed to show that he still belonged with the other elite guards in the league; especially with how stacked the guard position is in the Association now. This includes the fact that many knew Kyrie can fill the stat sheet up with points, not many knew if he could balance his scoring while playing with James and Love. This would truly be his hardest season so far in his 4 year career.
Surely, this far into the season you can clearly see he has checked all of those challenges off his list. Irving has lead the team by himself when needed. This was most seen when the Cavaliers took on the Portland Trailblazers on January 28th. The Cavaliers, of which were short-handed without LeBron, were lead from start to finish by Irving. Irving finished with 55, a career high and currently the most scored by one player halfway through the season. Being able to lead a team by yourself is a true sign of the maturation process that Irving has conducted throughout the season. These flashes of regular dominance throughout games, has put Cavalier fans at ease for when their “King” retires down the road. LeBron even said, “He’s turning into a leader in his own right.”
Irving also has shown that he clicks with James. Both put up significantly better numbers when they are on the court together. Irving, so far this season, is averaging 21.7 points a game, while Love and James are averaging 17.0 & 25.9 PPG apiece. Although Love isn’t scoring anywhere near the way he was in Minny, James is still averaging right around where he has in the past few seasons. Irving, on the other hand, is almost having a career year in terms of scoring average. This is an obvious sign that Irving thrives when being able to play with two other All-Stars on the same court.
When any Big 3 comes together, the first question asked is “How will the 3 players gel together, and how fast will it happen?” The Cavaliers are 55 games into the season, and it appears that the problem of having the 3 players gel together on the court is non-existent. LeBron, since coming back from his injury ridden month of January, has been dominant in every aspect of the game. Irving has been able to set up LeBron and give him that “Elite” point guard that LeBron has so sorely needed throughout his NBA career.
In review, Irving has had an excellent start for the first half of his 4th year in the NBA, and it appears that Irving will also have his first taste of the playoffs in the league. Being a newbie when it comes to the post season, Irving’s performance should set a benchmark on how well the 22 year old has progressed this year.