What to Expect in Year One from Kyrie Irving
There is no denying that Kyrie Irving has been one of the league’s best scorers over the last few seasons. The Celtics recently acquired Irving so he could be “the guy” in Boston. Finally out of LeBron’s shadow, Uncle Drew is ready to shine. What should excite Celtics fans the most is Kyrie's ability to create his own buckets. Last season, Isaiah Thomas was practically the only Celtic who could do that. After the departure of Evan Turner, Isaiah was Boston's sole playmaker. This is not a knock on the Celtics of last year; the team was the number one seed in the Eastern Conference and exceeded all expectations. However, their starting lineup consisted of Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Amir Johnson, and Al Horford. These are all great players, but who besides Thomas and occasionally Horford in the post can create his own shot consistently? This is why Kyrie Irving will put up monster numbers for the Celtics. He wanted out of Cleveland to be “the guy,” and he will now have his perfect system. Brad Stevens will allow Kyrie to be the primary ball-handler and will run the offense through him. “I think Kyrie really knows how to play,” Stevens said. “I think Kyrie can pass off pick-and-rolls, he can score off pick-and-rolls. He draws a lot of attention, he draws a lot of blitzing, he draws a lot of attention at the rim. He’s a fabulous scorer, and I think he could really flourish in what we’re doing and what we need to do to bring out the best in him.”
Irving is coming off what may have been his best season ever. He played 72 games and averaged 25.2 points per game, 5.8 assists per game, and 3.2 rebounds per game. These numbers are likely to increase even more without LeBron holding onto the ball so much. Kyrie shot 47.3 percent from the field on almost 20 shots per game. Irving will be able to take more shots and reach his full potential these next two or more years with Boston.
Brad Stevens emphasizes ball movement and Kyrie will most likely have more assists this year than any year before. Fortunately for Kyrie, Gordon Hayward, Horford and other Celtics players love to pass the ball around and do not rely on isolations for points. Brad Stevens is a much superior coach to Tyronn Lue and David Blatt, Irving’s former coaches, and will hopefully know how to successfully utilize Irving’s talents in the Celtics offense. Kyrie will be forced into tougher defensive situations this year with the Celtics. The departure of Avery Bradley, one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, means that Kyrie cannot simply switch off his assignment for a lesser player. Marcus Smart will try to fill that defensive stopper role this year, but who knows how effective that will be with him coming off the bench. Boston’s new addition of All-Star Gordon Hayward will make it very challenging for opposing teams to double team Irving. While it is not the Celtic style of play to run isolations, Irving will certainly be helpful at the end of shot clocks when the team needs quick offense. Isaiah Thomas was a phenomenal offensive scorer this year, but his height certainly restricted him in the paint. Celtics fans will be happy that instead of Jae Crowder chucking up a contested 3-pointer with the shot clock expiring, it will be All-Star Kyrie Irving. Kyrie has extremely high expectations and for a good reason. Boston gave up fan-favorite Isaiah Thomas, one of the best contracts in the league in Jae Crowder, first-round draft pick Ante Zizic, and Brooklyn’s highly coveted first round pick this upcoming year. Irving was brought here to win a championship, and the city of Boston and Danny Ainge will settle for nothing less. As it stands right now, the Boston Celtics won this trade. Isaiah Thomas only had one year left on his deal and is coming off a bad hip injury. In fact, more and more reports are saying the hip injury could keep Thomas out for months of next season. So the Cavaliers will be forced into a tricky situation, one the Celtics used to be in, where they need to decide if they are going to offer Isaiah a max contract (or close to one) after this season, or let him walk. Jae Crowder and Ante Zizic will both be bench players for the Cavaliers this year, and neither will convince LeBron to stay past 2018. This means the Cavaliers better hope they get lucky on lottery night next summer or else this could go down as one of the worst trades in their franchise’s history. After this year LeBron and Isaiah could both be out the door and leave the Cavaliers, who were just contending for titles, at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.