Tag Archives: Kyrie Irving

Statistical Anomaly: Cavaliers @ Celtics

Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Statistical Anomaly is a series where we explore all the mathematical nuances you may not have noticed watching the game the first time. Today, Kyle waxes Euclidian the Celtics containing Kyrie Irving but still losing a home game to the Cavaliers.

Jeff Green has stepped into the primary scorer some nights for the Celtics, but I am more impressed with 26 year olds ability to fill it up in an efficient manner. He scored a team high 23 points against Cleveland, the sixth time he has tallied at least that many points. The power forward is shooting 66.3% from the field in those games while averaging nearly three made triples. In fact, this was the first such game in which Green failed to make multiple three pointers. Sure, the Celtics are have only earned a split in those six games, but if you consider that the majority of those have been played without Boston’s big names, it is evident that Green  is the scoring option of the future for the C’s.

If you bought a ticket for this game a while back, you were expecting to see the big three of Boston and arguably the games most promising point guard (if not player at any position) in Kyrie Irving. Instead, Boston’s Three Party all watched and Irving far short of 100%, paving the way for less heralded scoring options. Consider this nugget: the eight players who scored 10+ points in this game have totaled 36.9% fewer career points than Paul Pierce has alone (entering this game).

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Or, if you prefer a circular view

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Fans may not have seen the names they know for Boston or the game they’ve come to know from Irving (4/20 from the field), but they caught glimpse of the future. The Cavaliers get 49 points per night from players 22 years of age or younger, giving them as high an offensive ceiling as anyone.

Jordan Crawford left Washington with a score first, second, and third reputation, with very few people considering him a nice all around player. But since joining Boston in late February, he has focused more on team points than personal points. For the fifth time in seven games, Crawford recorded at least as many assists as FGM. Not to shabby for a player who averages 60% more FGM than assists for his career. While scoring points is his calling card, the ability to distribute is an encouraging sign for his future value to Boston (or any NBA team for that matter) in the future.

The Cavaliers broke an eight game losing streak that lasted over two months in games against teams that have clinched a playoff berth when Tristan Thompson attempts at least 10 shots. That being said, increasing Thompson’s role in the offense (attempted 10+ shots in 21.7% of games last season and is doing so in  48% of games this year) figures to pay dividends sooner rather than later. His scoring has increased by 25.6% while shooting nearly 5% better from the field. His numbers have spiked without a healthy Anderson Varejao, but the skill set is there, and shouldn’t disappear when playing alongside the rebounding machine. If Cleveland can ever get all of its pieces on the court at the same time, this is a scary team that is only going to get better with time.

Kevin Jones struggled from the field but was very active on the glass, earning his 22 minutes by grabbing eight rebounds (three offensive). Jones has appeared in 25 games this season, but has tallied 37% of his rebounds in just two of those contests and 50% of them have come on a Friday. At 6’8” and 260 pounds, Jones is another young force around the rim that can serve as a stop gap when the starters are out of the game. Jones’ rebounding and positive impact was felt by the 14 point advantage held by the Cavaliers in the paint, a game changing stat given the fact that Cleveland won the game by six points. His body type gives him the potential to turn into a specialist, as he can  matchup physically with some of the elite scorers in the league.

The Changing Definitions of True and Pure

Jack Winter and I discuss what it means to be a “true” point guard in today’s increasingly position-less NBA. 

Jordan: A common critique regarding this new generation of point guards is that they are not “true” point guards, and that this will inevitably hurt the team somewhere down the road. Is that still true, though? With all of this positional revolution, the en-vogue stretch fours, small fives, LeBron playing any position he damn well pleases, what is the position most resistant to the revolution? Do teams still need a “true” point guard if, say, their small forward or two guard is, in fact, a better passer or initiator?

Jack: With respect to just the point guard thing and whether or not a team really needs a ‘true’ one, I just think so much of not having that guy and thriving is dependent on the merits of your primary creator.  If it’s LBJ, Harden, KD, Wade, Kobe (now), etcetera, it’s great; those guys know the benefits of moving the ball, getting others involved and mining for better shots.  And the first two, in particular, can make every pass – whip, pocket, skip, dump, whatever – a guy like Chris Paul can make.  Those other four are great, obviously, and have shown they can initiate offense at a very high level, but sometimes even they get tunnel vision; not sure they necessarily have the poise or feel of LBJ/Harden, which says something because I’m a longtime fan of Wade.  I just think you really need to have one of those guys or someone like them to completely eschew a primary handler.  Therein lies the problem for me – about six of them exist.

Jordan: That makes a lot of sense. It just seems odd that despite the wealth of advancements in both metrics and play, we still say “true” or “pure” point guard as if being otherwise, such as a scoring point, is somehow vile to the senses. Like, Lillard is caught between a scoring point and a pure point, trending towards the former, but that doesn’t make him “less” of a point guard or playmaker, I don’t think.

But you’re right, there just aren’t a lot of players that aren’t point guards that you can consistently count on not just to initiate your offense, but be the primary playmaker as well. I wonder if that’s a product of coaching and forcing a player into a position.

Jack: I think what ‘point guard’ really means to analysts/bloggers is changing. In the past that nomenclature always inferred a guy like Paul, Nash, Rondo or Calderon, players whose foremost goal was to set up teammates and initiate sets. I’m not sure that’s what it means now, though.  Players like Lillard, Kyrie and Holiday we’d all agree are point guards, even though their roles drastically veer from the traditional path that comes with that distinction. They’re mostly scorers first for now because that’s what their respective teams need, but they clearly have the ability and knack to play more of a Paul-like style. ‘Pure’ and ‘true’ now means what just ‘point guard’ used to mean.

And the other thing is that pure PGs tend to be limited. Calderon can’t flip the switch to dominant creator in the fourth quarter like Paul can and Nash used to be able to. While I think that hero-ball mentality is overrated (obviously), there’s certainly something to be said for running a simple high PNR late in a close game and letting the handler get his team a shot, whether it’s his, the roll/pop man’s or someone else’s. That’s just one of the many reasons why “true PGs” are few and far between at all, and even more so when it comes to players with larger roles.

So unless you have one of those handful of wing guys who are truly position-less, a balance is needed. That’s why we’re seeing more and more guys like Holiday and Lillard; they can’t be their team’s sole creator on the perimeter if a team wants to be great, but they can be a vital cog in a system that merits extra dribblers. Denver, actually, is the perfect example there. Lawson isn’t a true PG by any stretch and hardly a dominant creator in the mold of someone like Tony Parker, so the Nuggets use Gallo and Iggy to take some pressure off of him and put more on the defense.

Jordan: I really liked that point you made about “pure” and “true.” What infuriates me about the Kyrie, Holiday, even Lawson detractors is their dogmatic adherence to assists as the gauge of a point guard’s worth. Put Calderon on the Cavs instead of Kyrie, and you may get more assists, but you’ll have a team that’s lucky to win 5 games in an entire season. And, it’s not as if those players don’t have vision or ability, they clearly do, it’s just exactly what you said: they need to be scorers more than passers for their team to succeed. And a high PnR is preferable to hero ball almost any day of the week.

Names, obviously, play a great deal in this, like you pointed out. Holiday may not be a true point guard, but he’s a very good, and improving passer, a great defender, and a decent shooter. But he’s also not quite a shooting guard, and he plays point exclusively, so we can’t call him a combo. So we just slap point guard on to him, even though the name-signifier is now outdated.

Follow Jack on Twitter: @ArmstrongWinter


2013 All-Star Profiles: Kyrie Irving

Lars Plougmann (Flickr)

Lars Plougmann (Flickr)

As you may or may not know, I’m the managing editor of SBNation’s Cleveland Cavaliers blog, FearTheSword. And recently, many of us over there have complained about how Kyrie Irving should have been starting the All Star Game over Rajon Rondo. And then we complained when it came out that Erik Spoelstra would likely give Rondo’s now-vacant spot in the starting lineup to Chris Bosh instead of Kyrie. But while some of our complaints may be reasonable, they seem shortsighted and misguided. We’re talking about a 20-year old point guard on a last place team who was just named to the All Star team in his second season. Read that sentence again. Now read it again and consider how crazy it sounds.

Kyrie Irving is just 20 years old.

He cannot legally order an alcoholic beverage in the United States. He can’t rent a car. And yet, he’s on his way to Houston for the 2013 NBA All Star Game. [Ed. Note: 2/3 apply to the author of this article as well.]

It’s one thing to read those words and grasp the idea that most people his age are playing Assassin’s Creed in between college classes. But to watch him on the court and grasp this concept is another thing altogether. Nothing he does would indicate that he’s merely a kid. When Kyrie Irving is on the court, he carries himself with the poise and control of a seasoned veteran.. His baffling ball-handling skills and scoring ability are among the best that the NBA has to offer. However, it’s his desire to thrive in pressure situations and his unbelievable flair for the dramatic that makes Kyrie Irving must-watch television, despite his team’s residence at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

Kyrie’s 23.9 points per game currently ranks 6th in the NBA. He joins LeBron James as the only other player in the Eastern Conference averaging 20+ points and 5+ assists each night. His statistical profile is beyond impressive and makes a valid claim for him to take a spot in the starting lineup. But it’s not a big deal if he ends up coming off the bench. It’s remarkable enough that a 20-year old has already solidified himself as a sure-fire All Star in just his second year in the league.

The Cavaliers are yet to play on ESPN or TNT since Kyrie arrived in Cleveland. His first All Star appearance acts as an opportunity to introduce himself to the more casual NBA fan. His full array of crossovers and hesitation moves will be on display whether he’s in the starting lineup or not. Kyrie has plenty of time to work up to being an All Star starter. And once he gets there, I figure he’ll keep that spot for the next, say, decade or so. After all, he’s just 20 years old.

We Were Robbed of a RoY

Photo of a race that never was from Flickr, Scott Ableman

It’s not really Keith Smart’s fault, but we were robbed, straight snookered out of a Rookie of the Year candidate without ever even knowing it. But when you have a Monta Ellis and a Stephen Curry in front of you in the rotation what’cha gonna do?

Jeremy Lin played in 29 NBA games last year, but for mere moments in each. He’s about to double his career minutes played in little more than a couple of handfuls of games. For all intents and purposes this is his real NBA debut. It’s a safe bet to assume that not more than about 72 people — the total number of Lin’s professional field goal attempts coming into this season — really believed he’d be doing what he is now.

And what, exactly, is he doing now?

In a recent 5-on-5 the question was posed, and I responded:

Who’s the top rookie of the first six weeks?

I would love to be able to say it’s the adorable Ricky Rubio, but I cannot ignore what Kyrie Irving has done for Cleveland thus far, being in the less-stacked Eastern Conference notwithstanding. Of the past four guards taken first overall in the NBA draft (Irving, John Wall, Derrick Rose and Allen Iverson), none shot more efficiently from the field or from the 3-point line than Irving in the rookie season, and normalized for minutes played, Irving is also the highest scorer.

ESPN 5-on-5 Debate: Six weeks later, better and best

The results were unanimous concerning Irving, but this was before he got hurt letting Rubio tighten the race. But what if Jeremy Lin was in the 66-game sprint? How would he stack up to the current leaders in the clubhouse had we not been robbed of his real debut?

Courtesy BasketballReference.com

Considering the market Lin’s been basing his phenomenal feats from, and the fact he took Rubio out out head-to-head to continue the New York Knicks’ ridiculous run while Irving sits in a suit in Cleveland, sidelined during the height of Linsanity,  does anyone doubt he would have overtaken the lead in this unfortunately fictional dash?

The league is ripe with an up-and-coming crop of point guards, and this batch refreshingly aren’t all combo-guard-clones, as many from the last harvest have been. But how does this current crop stack up to reigning MVP Derrick Rose’s season, last?


The future of the floor general in the NBA is in pretty good hands.