Number 2 4 MVP: Why Kyrie Irving is Poised for His Best Season Yet
Coming off an NBA Finals performance that boasted averages of 27+ points, four assists, four rebounds, and two steals, Kyrie Irving is ready to take his game to the next level. Although the Cleveland point guard certainly validated himself as one of the best scorers in the league, the hunger to prove himself among the point guard elite still drives Irving to continue improving his game.
“The hunger is still there,” Irving said. “It’s always going to be there. Last season was amazing, but now it’s time to build on it. I still have things to prove, and so does everyone on this team, so we’re still hungry.”
Last year, LeBron James has expressed multiple times that he believes Irving is capable of earning MVP honors one day. That day may come sooner than later, with Irving’s confidence in himself at an all time high after last year’s finals. “My confidence is the same, if not, more,” Irving explained. “I’ve always believed in myself. I set a lot of goals for myself, and we accomplished a lot of them, but now we have to hit the other goals I have.”
Irving understands that every new season will bring new challenges, but is looking forward to fresh goals that have been set before the team. “We definitely will have to raise the level of play this year,” Irving said. “We’ve had a target on our back for the last few years, but it will be different this year. I’ve never won a championship before obviously, but I do know that this year will be even more intense. As a competitor, I’m so excited for it.”
The Fast Track of the MVP Race
Irving is my early favorite to win this year’s MVP trophy for a few reasons. First, with LeBron James turning 32 in December, Irving will be counted on more to facilitate the offense, in addition to carrying the scoring load as well. Remember, Irving was sidelined until mid December last season due to a knee injury. His absence led to an increased usage rate from James to keep the team on track until he got back. The Cavs will look to a healthy Kyrie Irving to contribute a ton of fire power to ease up on the aging King and save his body for another deep playoff run. Second, the Cavs’ depth at the point guard position has been significantly depleted with the departure of Mathew Dellavedova and the retirement of Mo Williams. Recent history tells us that NBA voters tend to lean toward their early award predictions when it comes time to vote at the end of the season. If Irving is stuffing the stat sheet early and the Cavs get off to a great start, by January, Irving might have wrapped up the MVP honors.
Addition by Subtraction
Another reason why Irving will win MVP this year is because the Kevin Durant decision takes out his three biggest obstacles to the trophy. Durant and the Warriors will probably have the best record in the regular season, but if both Durant and Steph Curry put up big numbers, they will take away votes from each other. A lot of people think Russell Westbrook will have a monster season this year, and I agree. The only problem is I don’t think the Thunder will have a good enough record for him to get the trophy. If the Thunder end up with the third best record in the Western Conference behind both Golden State and San Antonio, and the fourth best record in the league behind those two and Cleveland, then the trophy is Westbrook’s for the taking. The problem is I don’t see it happening. Unless the Clippers are riddled with injuries again, I can’t see the Thunder beating them out as that third team in the west. Even if they do, but their overall record isn’t on par with the three teams ahead of them, I don’t see how voters give Westbrook the edge. Durant’s decision takes out three of the four biggest stars in the game from winning MVP. That fourth star is Irving’s teammate in James. Obviously the same logic of Durant and Curry could be applied to Irving and James, but I think their situation is a little bit different. Remember my first point: I think Irving is going to start the season on fire. If Irving carries most of the scoring load, and James paces himself early on, than the Cavs’ success will lean more on Irving’s shoulders. Other stars like Paul George and Kawhi Leonard will surely be in the conversation, but I think the combination of having a top three record and Irving’s hot start will give him the edge over those two.
It’s His Time
Believe it or not, Uncle Drew is entering just his sixth season in the league. Not considered a veteran just quite yet, Irving said that he is still learning from his experiences and always working to become an even better player. “This is another year of maturing,” Irving said. “I’m learning how to be an even better leader, let alone a better player. For me now, it’s about going out and being a leader for our team. Leading us every night. Taking on that challenge every night. That’s what I have to do for our team to take that next step, for us to be able to repeat. I’m excited to do just that.”
I believe that Irving has figured the game out, and if he hasn’t already, figured out the league out. Irving is not the same 19 year old rookie that won Rookie of the Year, or the 22 year old that made three straight All-Star Games with an All-Star MVP on his resume. He’ll be 25 by the end of the season, and has already seen the highs and lows of an NBA season. He’s been on a team with the worst record in the league and he’s also won a championship. He’s seen the level of commitment it takes to win one championship, and is currently learning what it takes to try to win a second. He dominated the reigning two-time MVP in the Finals (and before you give me the ‘Curry was hurt’ excuse, please remember that Irving gave Curry 23 points, six assists, seven rebounds, four steals, and two block on ONE leg in Game 1 the year before). His confidence is at an all time high, and he’s playing with a first ballot hall-of-famer in James who’s helping him reach even greater heights. Compare that with my first two points, and the 2016-2017 season might very well be the year of Irving.