Is Kyrie Irving overrated?
One could ask 100 different people this question and probably get 100 unique responses.
Kyrie Irving will be doing a “media blackout” this season and not speak to the media throughout the year, via @WindhorstESPN.
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) December 4, 2020
He has had a rough time since leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers, which has naturally brought out questions about his talent.
But to say he’s overrated is a stretch.
His off-court antics are one thing, but discussing whether or not a player is overrated boils down to one thing: talent.
And Irving has talent, loads and loads of talent.
He has been one of the most skilled offensive players since entering the league in 2011.
And he already has an NBA title under his belt from his time with LeBron.
The pairing of Irving and Kevin Durant has the Nets as pre-season favorites for many to be the Eastern Conference representative in the NBA Finals.
As good as Kevin Durant is, he isn’t good enough to single-handedly make a team the favorite to make the NBA Finals.
Irving Isn’t a Leader
As much as Kyrie wants to be the top dog, nobody ever really labeled him as a leader.
He was clearly the second fiddle in Cleveland to LeBron.
And after a disastrous stop in Boston, nobody is confusing him as a leader moving forward.
If you want to label Irving a leader then maybe he is overrated.
But the tumultuous two years with the Celtics and half a year with Brooklyn last year without KD have clearly defined Irving’s role.
"Kyrie Irving has not shown me he can be a leader in any situation."
—Charles Barkley on Kyrie Irving being voted Vice President of the NBAPA pic.twitter.com/Gp6hWuLXkw
— PTI (@PTI) February 20, 2020
Not being a leader does not mean Irving is not a star.
But nobody is mistaking them for the leaders of their teams.
They are all second options behind Kawhi Leonard, Steph Curry, and Giannis Antetokounmpu, respectively.
Does that take away from their standing in the league, though?
Of course not – they are all All-Star players who consistently play winning basketball.
Irving is who people say he is – an elite second option on a winning basketball team.
Can Coexist with Other Stars
This is arguably Irving’s biggest selling point.
Talent wins in the NBA, but only if the talent can play together.
The Houston Rockets can attest to that.
Irving has proven he can play next to other star players.
They managed to produce at this high level despite the fact Irving and James never had a close relationship.
During those three seasons, Irving became much more efficient on offense.
- 2011-12 – 2013-14: 20.6 PPG, 5.7 APG, 45.9% FG, 39.4% 3P, 86.2% FT
- 2014-15 – 2016-17: 22.4 PPG, 5.3 APG, 46.5% FG, 38.7% 3P, 88.3% FT
While he shot slightly worse from 3 percentage wise, he attempted 5.4 threes-per-game from 2014 – 2016 as opposed to 4.2 threes-per-game from 2011 – 2013.
That change in shot selection helped spread the offense and allow James and the Cavaliers to run the offense that made them so effective.
Being able to play off-of and with other stars in the NBA is crucial to winning games.
Irving is Clutch
Kyrie has also proven he can show up when the lights shine brightest.
During the Cavs title run in 2016, Irving was sensational.
He averaged 24.7 PPG and 4.6 APG while slashing 47.5%/44.0%/87.5%.
That line includes NBA Finals averages of 27.1 PPG and 3.9 APG while slashing 46.8%/40.5%/93.9%.
Kyrie Irving was unstoppable in Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals
5/7 3PM pic.twitter.com/V4JKR32PFV
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) September 11, 2019
Highlighted by an unbelievable Game 5 that saw Irving and LeBron both drop 40.
And, of course, the Finals-clinching three over Steph Curry that put the Cavs up for good with 53 seconds left in Game 7.
Kyrie Irving was putting on a show in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) June 11, 2020
On top of that massive shot, Irving has clutch buckets against the Warriors on Christmas Day and against the Spurs in 2015.
Between himself and Durant, Brooklyn has two elite closers to put games away late.
Elite Offensive Talent
While Irving’s leadership can be questioned, nobody questions his offensive talent.
Kyrie and Curry are consistently ranked as 1 and 2 in terms of who has the best handle in the league.
The best handles in the game 😳
— The Crossover (@TheCrossover) July 31, 2018
Irving’s ability to break down a defense off the dribble is critical to running an effective NBA offense.
Beating your defender collapses the defense and creates open looks for role players.
He can split double teams and finish from any and all angles when driving to the basket.
Offensive talents like Irving do not just grow on trees.
For his career, Kyrie averages 22 PPG on 46.6% shooting and 39% from deep.
He also adds on 5.7 APG and 3.7 RPG.
In 20 games with the Nets last year, he posted 27.4 PPG on 48% shooting and 39.4% from deep.
He has shot greater than 39% from deep in 7 of his 9 seasons, with 5 of those seasons seeing him reach 40%.
Irving is efficient and lethal from anywhere on the court and has the ability to carry an entire offense himself.
As talented as Irving is scoring the ball, he is not a one-dimensional player.
His isolation scoring abilities sometimes cause people to overlook his distribution skills.
He has only averaged fewer than 5 APG in a season once – the 2015-2016 season that started slowly as he rehabbed from a knee injury.
And the past 2 seasons have seen him average 6.8 APG while leading NBA offenses.
Irving does not simply look to attack the basket after breaking down a defense.
He has great court vision and can throw passes with either hand to open shooters or cutters.
Searching for Irving Passing Highlights on YouTube yields some excellent videos.
He has been in the top-10 in the NBA in terms of assist-percentage the past 2 seasons.
Assist percentage is an estimate of the percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted while he was on the floor.
Irving is a talented offensive talent, but that talent is not limited to just scoring.