The narrative around Kyrie Irving has swung so far negatively that it’s starting to become laughable. Every superstar comes with their own baggage, and Irving is certainly no exception. The fact that it’s begun to detract away from his on court talents is the strangest part.
We’re talking about a two-time All-NBA player, an All-Star MVP and an NBA champion. You can look to his form in this year’s playoffs as a way to further the negative narrative, but if anything that was more an aberration. Over the course of four postseasons Kyrie has averaged per game stats of 23.5 points, 5 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.4 steals while shooting over 45% from the field and 39.8% from three. Those numbers paint a portrait of an accomplished performer in the most important games.
He’ll be forced to step up as the leader of the Brooklyn Nets in the absence of superstar forward Kevin Durant. That’s where the case for Irving as an MVP candidate comes to fruition. At the end of the day it won’t come down to Irving’s individual exploits but more the team’s success. If Irving can lead the Nets to a top-three seed out East, and anything north of 50+ wins, then he’ll have as good a claim as any for the MVP.
He’ll also need to prove his greatness all season long and maintain good health. That might be the biggest reason against his MVP chances. Irving has only played 75 games or more once in his career (in 2014-15). He played 67 last year and will need to get that number back up into the 70s for him to have a true claim for the award. Under the guise of the Brooklyn medical staff you wouldn’t put it past him being the healthiest he’s ever been heading into his ninth season.
Giannis and Steph headline the players that are the favourites for the award. The case against Giannis is that it’s damn hard to win back to back MVPs. The most recent player to do it was the guy just behind him in favouritism according to bookies. For Curry it’ll likely be a similar indicator that could prevent Irving from winning the award, health.
The race for next year’s title is as wide open as ever, as is the race for the game’s most prestigious individual award. There are plenty of players who could win it. When it comes to MVP it’s about narrative, production, health and team success. If Kyrie fulfills all four of those things don’t be surprised if he walks away the MVP of the 2019-20 season.