Let’s All Take a Minute to Appreciate Kyrie Irving
As all avid NBA fans know, Kyrie Irving shocked the basketball world this past Friday when news broke of him requesting a trade from the team that selected him #1 overall in the 2011 draft. Since then, the basketball world has been divided by a Twilight-esqe “Team Kyrie or Team LeBron” rift that has captivated us for the past few days. As I heard Dan Le Betard point out on Sportscenter this morning, we have not truly seen a power struggle between stars of this caliber since Kobe and Shaq split up following the 2003–2004 season. Many people, such as Colin Cowherd in this clip below, believe that Kyrie Irving is making the biggest mistake of his basketball career by leaving a player who some consider the best of all time.
But let’s step back and look at the big picture here. Yes, leaving a team that is almost a sure lock to make it to the Finals for the fourth straight season next year is, on paper, not a good decision, especially in a sport in which your career is defined by the amount of championships you win. Kyrie’s decision, however, is a breath of fresh air as the NBA becomes further and further entrenched in the “Superteam Era” with each passing year. As an NBA fan, it is refreshing to see a player be old school, and to try to take on a challenge of building an NBA team up from the ashes as the centerpiece of the franchise, which is what is going to be the mission he will have to accept if he gets traded out of Cleveland (unless, of course, he goes to the Spurs or T-Wolves, doubtful though).
According to Bleacher Report, here are the top 25 players in the NBA currently (not in order): LeBron, Harden, KD, Russ, Kawhi, Steph, Giannis, CP3, Jimmy Butler, Draymond, Lowry, Rudy Gobert, Isaiah Thomas, The Brow, George, Jokic, Cousins, Wall, KAT, DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol, Conley, Griffin, Millsap, and Dame. If you go by those rankings, the top 25 players in the NBA are on 16 different teams. If you go further down the list, the top 30 are on 17 teams, and the top 35 are on 18 teams. The league’s top talent is distributed into what is basically half of the teams. Kyrie being moved to Phoenix, New York, or any of the other struggling franchises trying to build up assets to offer for him would both give life to a bottom feeder of the NBA, and take away from the top tier of the NBA. In an offseason which has been littered with players such as Paul George, Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, and potentially Carmelo Anthony leave their low to mid level franchises to go chase a ring and form a superteam, I love Kyrie’s move to believe in himself and take himself out of the top tier of the league to build up a franchise that he can call his own. Granted, some of this is necessary if team’s hope to take down the Warriors, but it is very refreshing to see a player try to reverse the trend and add some parody to the NBA.
We cannot blame Kyrie for seeing the writing on the wall and trying to ditch town before LeBron does. The odds that LeBron stays in Cleveland after next summer seems to get more and more slim by the week, and with the lack of young assets and potential future cornerstones on the Cavs roster, the future does not look very bright. At least some of the other teams in the bottom tier of the league have young assets and/or picks stocked up to make it possible to build around a Kyrie Irving. I REPEAT, KYRIE DOES NOT HAVE A FUTURE IN CLEVELAND. If he does stay, he will be stuck with a top 5 worst owner in the league, will be the star as the Cavs become a mid tier NBA team and will love players such as Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, Korver, and other role players as they will be lured away to the top tier teams as they attempt to continue their careers as difference making role players in key playoff games. Not to mention that a LeBron James exit will probably shift a lot of players from around the league to wherever he chooses to go, and will leave the situation in Cleveland even more toxic than it is right now.
To answer anyone who may question it, Kyrie Irving is a franchise player. He is a 25 year old point guard who managed to average 25 points, 3 rebounds, and almost 6 assists while taking a backseat to the best player on the planet and playing in a half-court system that does not really suit his game. If he does get traded out of Cleveland, he will become a top 25 player in the league this coming year, and will almost certainly become a centerpiece of a franchise trying to rise out of the ashes. If he also commits on the defensive end, he will become a top 10 player in the league. Although it may hurt the chances of anybody beating the Warriors this coming year, it is nice to see a young player try to reverse the superteam culture of the NBA today and give hope to one of the league’s many struggling low to mid level franchises.
With all that being said…
Thank you, Kyrie.