Kyrie Irving is a 6’3″ man who happens to be a very good basketball player. Part of his skill set is an electrifying handle, and he also is able to pass the ball very well. He also is the shortest player on his Cleveland Cavaliers that is part of the rotation. Because of all of this, people label Kyrie Irving as a point guard.
I’m here to tell you that’s wrong. Stop calling him a point guard, and start calling him what he is: a combo guard, or to make it simple, just a guard.
Irving definitely has the talent to be a good point guard in the NBA, but what really makes him special is his scoring ability, both at the rim and shooting the ball. He knows this is his strength, and takes advantage of it. This season has been his best yet, as he is having an absurdly efficient season shooting the ball, with a current split of 49/42/83 on field goal percentage, three point percentage, and free throws, respectively. While unlikely, a rarified 50/40/90 season is a possibility. Also, he leads all guards the league in field goal percentage in the restricted area, shooting over 70% there.
However, he has gotten some criticism due his “lack of team play”, particularly early in the season. Irving followed up a miserable 9 point, 3-17 shooting game against Portland with a game against Utah where he scored 34 points, but recorded no assists.
While it has quieted down, this criticism of Irving has not totally been silenced. His assist numbers are down to 4.8 per game, the lowest of his career thus far. Many fans see this as a sign of Irving being a bad teammate. This could not be farther from the truth.
First of all, Kyrie has a few new teammates this season that he has not ever played with before, one of them by the name of LeBron James. James is an incredibly gifted facilitator, and after the Cavaliers’ recent four game losing streak, he took over the role of “point guard”. The Cavaliers have won six straight games since the conclusion of their losing streak.
With James running the point, Irving has slid over to the shooting guard position on offense, and his game has flourished. Most notably, he decimated the Knicks on Thursday night, scoring 37 points on 12-18 shooting. He made plays throughout the game, and scored the game winning bucket with 10 seconds left.
In spite of these impressive numbers, some fans still have been giving Irving grief about his low assist totals (he had two last night, both in the fourth quarter). This is totally unfair and undeserved criticism. While Irving is a quality facilitator, that isn’t his game, and he’s best when he plays off the ball. And besides, for an off-ball guard, 4.8 assists per game is an impressive number, especially when the main facilitator averages double digit assists (James has averaged 10.1 assists per game over the winning streak).
So everyone needs to take a step back and stop criticizing Irving for not being a true point guard. He is not a true point guard and never will be. Once fans realize that Irving is not the main facilitator and ball handler in Cleveland, people will stop giving him grief for his lowered assist totals. But there is only one way for this to happen: stop calling Kyrie Irving a point guard.