Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers have only played twelve games this season, but he has cemented himself as the favorite to win Rookie of the Year.
He has helped turn around a Cavs team that only won 19 games a season ago, and he has done so in spectacular fashion.
Image source: ESPNCleveland.com
Irving had a rough start to the season in the opener at home. He only had six points on 2-12 shooting, but he quickly turned it around in the next game. The opener turned out to be his only game in single-digit scoring so far this season, and he has not dipped below twelve points in a game since.
In the time leading up to the draft many people in Cleveland, including myself, were hoping that the Cavs would draft Derrick Williams out of Arizona. He would fill the need at the forward position and would provide a dual threat as an inside and outside scorer.
These feelings were mainly due to the fact that Kyrie only played 11 games at Duke. He looked great in those games, but it is tough to get excited about a player with such a lack of experience. The Cavs drafted him and then took Tristian Thompson with the fourth pick in the draft.
The opener came and went, and some fans were upset with Irving’s play. It was warranted, but the whole team came out flat. He came back in his next game with 14 points in only twenty minutes on the court.
Irving’s third game turned out to be a turning point in his very young NBA career. He had a layup at the end of regulation that would have defeated the Pacers, but he could not finish. The Cavs would lose in overtime, and dropped to 1-2.
The Cavs started January with a win over the Nets, and have been playing great basketball the whole month. They are 5-4 this month, which is impressive considering they just finished a 7-game road trip that saw them travel all over the country.
In January, Kyrie Irving has been Cleveland’s best player. In nine games he has reached 20 points six times, including in each of his last five games. He has also recorded at least four assists in every game this season.
Comparing Kyrie to the other rookies is quite simple. He is averaging over 17 points a game. Two of the other top rookies in the NBA, Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams, must combine their points to eclipse that number. Williams in under ten points a game, which should make all Cavs fans feel much better about having Irving.
Rubio is one point guard, but another big name point guard is Kemba Walker. His Bobcats went up against Kyrie and the Cavs on Monday, and Kyrie won the battle. Kemba had 14 points in 38 minutes, while Kyrie had 25 in 35 minutes.
What helps Kyrie be so effective is the team around him. Many of the other top rookies are playing on very bad teams, while Kyrie has a solid team around him. Coach Byron Scott employs a ten-man rotation, which allows Kyrie and the starters to get the rest needed to compete in this condensed season. It also helps having a coach like Byron Scott, who knows a few things about being a successful NBA player.
The true test for Kyrie is coming up. On Friday he will go up against Derrick Rose, given that he is healthy, and the Bulls. A week from now, he and the Cavs will travel into Miami, which is a big game for Cleveland, given the obvious reasons. The Cavs finish up the month with two games against Rajon Rondo and the Celtics, so we will all see how Kyrie steps up in those games. Based on his current play, there is no reason to expect him to slow down at all.
Kyrie has pulled off some ridiculous shots this season, which usually see him spinning an impossible lay-up off the glass. Here is just one of many from the best rookie in the league.