Let me start this off by making something very clear from the offset. Chris Paul, CP3, is the best point guard in the NBA. He is clutch, a great leader, excellent distributor and underrated (and efficient) scorer. There is nothing he can’t do. Break a players ankles for the easy layup? Check. Maintain composure in the 4th as his team roar back to steal a game on the road? Check. Make every single player around him better? Check. Be a better coach than his coach? Check. Okay maybe the last one is a bit unfair on current Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro, but I think we could reasonably debate this. However I am not here today to rave and rant about the all world talent that is Chris Paul. In fact I’m here to talk about the young point guard out of Melbourne (yes Australia, I didn’t know this either!) and raised in New Jersey. A product of the Duke college programme, I talk of one Austin Rivers…I kid I kid, of course I mean none other than Kyrie Irving. I believe this young star has everything it takes to fill Paul’s shoes, and dare I say do even more.
Before you jump down my throat just check out their rookie numbers, which would lead to the thought that Irving is the slightly better shooter entering his second year than Paul was at the same stage. While CP3 is the slightly better creator and protector of the ball:
Chris Paul: 16.1ppg/7.8apg/5.1rpg/2.2spg/2.3topg (43.0fg% / 28.23pt% / 84.7FT%)
Kyrie Irving: 18.5ppg/5.4apg/3.7rpg/1.1spg/3.1topg (46.9fg% / 39.93pt% / 87.9FT%)
The now infamous Uncle Drew adverts have brought Kyrie Irving to the forefront of the American national media. However for those that didn’t follow this kid before those hilarious adverts, he is the real deal. He has a personality similar to Kevin Durant: humble, friendly but with a confidence in his game that makes him elite (yes elite already), he is destined to stay at the top of the point guard position for years to come.
I stumbled upon his game almost by accident. I saw the hype coming out of college but considering his lack of actual games I knew very little about him. However during my NBA fantasy draft for the 2011-12 season I scooped him up towards the back end of picks, knowing he was going to be the number one option on a terrible Cavaliers team. What ensued was pure magic.
From the get go Irving truly took it to opposing guards and team defences had to adjust quickly to this guys talent. Whether it be his quick first step, his smooth stroke from down-town, the ability to find the open man or drive to the basket for the and1 he was unstoppable. With each game his confidence grew as he and Jamison formed a formidable scoring duo (Irving averaged 17/6), I found my self watching as many Cavaliers games as I did my own team, the OKC Thunder. I even watched the Cavs clash the woefully terrible Charlotte Bobcats. That was time I can never get back in my life, but watching number 2 almost made it worthwhile. Almost.
Throughout the season, before an injury limiting his game time, he was actually the most efficient 4th quarter scorer in the league, over guys like Dirk, Kobe, Manu and Durant. He was averaging close to 10points in the 4th a game, and he took it to teams late on to score deciding buckets. Just ask the veteran Boston Celtics or Denver Nuggets. Both fell victim to Kyrie’s late game killer instinct.
This season he has picked up where he left off, benefiting from the return of Varejao and addition of Dion Waiters to form a potentially explosive and leagues best back-court. Kyrie has all the tools to be the top point man in a few years; and watching him now he reminds me Chris Paul in so many ways. He can score at will, set team-mates up and more than anything he always looks in control of the game. Whenever he brings the ball up the court you feel like the Cavaliers could genuinely get a good shot each and every possession. Name me a point guard who can control the game, score effortlessly and oozes floor leadership as good as Kyrie Irving that has been drafted since Chris Paul?
For me he is already in the conversation of best young point guard in the league with the Westbrook, Rose and Rondo’s of this world. It is a matter of time before we are deciding if he is infact the best in the league. And if his progress so far continues to maintain at the same level it will be sooner rather than later. If you doubt him, just go watch his clutch highlights on YouTube, Uncle Drew can close out a tough one without breaking a sweat.
If you take for granted his talent, just remember John Wall came out of a highly regarded college programme in Kentucky with superior athleticism and all the hype in the world. But I guess basketball IQ and floor generals don’t just grow on Kentucky trees (see Austin Rivers). They are made in local basketball courts, schooling the youngsters and putting retirement plans on hold.
Ladies and gentleman, Uncle Drew has arrived.