Why Kevin Durant Is The MVP: By @ProfessorCorria

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How can we describe value? What’s valuable to one individual might hold no significance to another party. However, value theory encompasses a range of approaches to understanding how, why and to what degree people value things; whether the thing is a person, idea, object, or anything else. Everyone with two eyes can discern that LeBron James is the best and most complete basketball player in the world, he’s earned that distinction. Does this make him the MVP? Paul George and LaMarcus Aldridge have put together fine seasons thus far, but team success is only one variable to the MVP quotient. Nevertheless using the eye-test and melding it with advanced statistics, Kevin Durant has risen to the top of the sport for the season thus far. Shouldering a huge load with his running mate Russell Westbrook having missed 16 games, Durant has pushed his game to another level, culminating with a cruelly efficient 54-point demolition of the Golden State Warriors. His transformation from wide-eyed, sweet humble kid into a sneering, brutally efficient scoring machine has been a joy to watch.

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                Kevin Durant has been extraordinary this season, and although I feel that LeBron James is the best player on the planet, but Durant has been the most valuable to his team. Is he the most valuable player in the NBA in relation to his team? That’s very hard to quantify, but Durant is on an elite team, so he gets that distinction as being the MVP of the league. Kevin Durant’s “traditional” stats are very good, averages of 30.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 5.1 APG. Durant is shooting 50.2% from the field, 41.1% on 3’s and 88.1% from the charity stripe.  Something that amazed me is that a player who is 6-11 is the most efficient player in the league at scoring on the pick & roll(Per Synergy Sports), where he is used as the primary ball handler. If you take a look at Durant’s “advanced” statistics you can really start to get a closer look at the monster season that Durant is having. Durant is leading the league in Player Efficiency Rating, Win Shares, 3rd in offensive Win Shares, 7th in Defensive Win Shares, and win shares Per 48 minutes(Per Basketball-Reference).

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                KD is the MVP and as he keeps ascending, his game keeps on expanding, he is slowly going to morph in the best player in the league and carry that mantle of “standard bearer” for the NBA. It won’t happen this year but it is coming in the near future and it isn’t a veiled shot at LeBron James, but KD is on the come up. Durant has shown up and shown out this year, while LeBron has sort of coasted, averaging the same name number of blocks per game as Stephen Curry and giving up 46% shooting when isolated on defense which is a great deal higher than anyone on his team and way above the league average(Per Hoop Data). Durant has been incredible this season and I think he will win the MVP trophy, which might be accompanied by another big trophy in June….

Images Courtesy SB Nation and Bleacher report

20 NBA Playoff thoughts with @ProfessorCorria

1.)    LeBron James is the undisputed heavyweight champion of the basketball universe. It’s not even close, it’s not up for debate, and if you think there is a better player you need to put the Molly water down.

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2.)    Kevin Durant is the second best player in the world, but he got a small taste of how heavy your head can be when you wear the crown, and it wasn’t pleasant.  He shouldn’t worry about being 2nd for right now, enjoy the journey and your time will come.

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3.)    The phrase “du jour” this postseason has been “Rim protection”. If I here Tim Legler or Colin Cowherd say, “Rim Protection”  one more time I’m going to lose my composure.

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4.)    Speaking of rim protection, Roy Hibbert has really been a force in the 2013 playoffs, just ask Melo. His presence and basketball IQ have been the difference throughout the playoffs for the Pacers. I urge you to watch him on defense, don’t follow the ball, but just watch Hibbert work on defense off the ball.

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5.)   Don’t the playoffs lose a little bit of luster without the Lakers, Bulls and Celtics making deep playoff runs? Kobe, Westbrook, Rondo, Rose and the myriad of injuries that haunted teams in this year’s playoffs have also harmed the product. Yes the NBA is a product for all you “for the love of the game guys” out there.

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6.)    This year’s playoffs have reaffirmed for me the notion that Tim Duncan has had a better career and a better player than Shaquille O’Neal. Yes Shaq had a better prime, but Duncan is in year 17 anchoring a team that just won the Western Conference.  He’s never missed the playoffs, never beefed with his co-star and didn’t fall in love with eating sandwiches and get out of shape. Can’t say the same for O’Neal.

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7.)    Dwight Howard in LA has been an unmitigated disaster. He needs to leave Los Angeles, and go play for the Houston Rockets. The roster in Houston is similar to the 2009 Orlando Magic, except James Harden is A LOT better than anyone that was on that team.

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8.)    Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins especially are stealing money from the Oklahoma City Thunder. $9 million a year for Kendrick Perkins and $12 million a year from Serge Ibaka, dear lord. Perkins is stealing money with no ski mask, gloves or pistol. He sucks so bad that he is the 1st player in the history of the NBA playoffs to have a negative PER.

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9.)    Stephen Curry established himself as top 5 PG in the NBA. He had flames coming off his hands during the playoffs and he has a very favorable contract going forward, 4 years $43 million. $5 million less than Serge Ibaka if your keeping score at home.

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10.)  We found out the true value of Russell Westbrook, not only his ability, but also his toughness. The Thunder missed his nasty streak and we found out who the true Alpha Male on the Thunder is.

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11.) Dwayne Wade………………. Whoa. 14.3PPG? I know LeBron must be giving him the side eye in the Locker Room. He must be thinking to himself, “I came here to play with you and if we lose I’m going to get all the blame and this is how you’re gonna play?”   A note to all D-Wade fan boys: This is who he is now, he might heal from his injury, but you think that a 31 year old 6-4 injury prone shooting guard, who relies heavily on his athletic ability is going to suddenly become who he was in 2011, never mind 2006? OKAY, el oh el.

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12.) Paul George is better than Carmelo Anthony. Especially if you count defense, which is 50% of playing basketball right? Never mind that Melo is on a 4 year $85 million dollar deal and Paul George is still on his rookie deal and will soon receive a 4 year $58 million dollar deal. Who would you rather have?

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13.) The Memphis Grizzlies front line of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol did everything but turn Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan upside down and turn their pockets inside out. Z-Bo gave Blake the Rikers Island “treatment” and Griffin just turtled. Blake Griffin is the most overrated player currently in the NBA, a smaller and softer version of Shawn Kemp.

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14.) Greg Popavich is LAWD. Zach Randolph and the Memphis Grizzlies are STILL trying to figure out what the hell happened in the Western Conference Finals. Popavich happened.

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15.) The undermanned Chicago Bulls played with a ferocity that made for great theatre in the first two rounds, especially in Game 1 Vs. the Miami Heat. Salute to them, you were a treat to watch.

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16.) Tony Parker is better than Chris Paul. Parker killed Paul head-to-head and he showed he has an extra gear that Chris Paul doesn’t have. Not to mention that he can get to the rim, which is EVERYTHING in the playoffs.

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17.) Did I mention that Dwayne Wade is washed up? Oh, and he’s a dirty player.

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18.) Ricardo Ledo will get drafted in the first round and is one of the most NBA ready players in the draft because he can shoot. Look for the Spurs to role the dice.

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19.) For several different reasons the Miami Heat will not make the 2014 NBA finals, so they better win the championship this year.

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20.) I don’t know why, but I really like watching Lance Stephenson play. Did I mention he’s from Brooklyn?

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21.) Kendrick Perkins REALLY REALLY REALLY……..REALLY SUCKS.

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TTO x S4TB: The Basketball Talk (Parts 1 & 2)

Recently Professor Corria and I teamed up with the talented gentlemen over at Sorry 4 The Blog to touch upon the numerous story-lines of the 2013 NBA Playoffs, and what’s ahead for NBA hopeful Ricky Ledo. Both parts 1 and 2 have already dropped and can be seen below, and be sure to keep an eye out for remaining videos in the series.

#TTO All-NBA and Season Awards by @ProfessorCorria

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We here at The Triangle Offense would like to present to you our All-NBA teams and season awards. These Picks were made with careful consideration and a great deal of thought. We’d love to hear your feedback in the comments section, or you can find us on twitter: @ProfessorCorria and @yeahflanny . Enjoy and discuss these selections and lets all gear up for the start of this years NBA Playoffs!!

ALL NBA 1ST TEAM:

C- Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

F- LeBron James, Miami Heat

F- Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

G- Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

G- Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

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ALL NBA 2ND TEAM

C- Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

F- Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks

F- LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trailblazers

G- James Harden, Houston Rockets

G- Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

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ALL NBA 3RD TEAM

C- Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers

F- Paul George, Indiana Pacers

F- David Lee, Golden State Warriors

G- Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs

G- Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers

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ALL NBA DEFENSIVE 1ST TEAM

C- Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

F- LeBron James, Miami Heat

F- Paul George, Indiana Pacers

G- Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies

G- Jrue Holliday, Philadelphia 76ers

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ALL NBA DEFENSIVE 2ND TEAM

C- Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls

F- Loul Deng, Chicago Bulls

F- Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder

G- Andre Iguodala, Denver Nuggets

G- Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies

Minnesota Timberwolves v Golden State Warriors

ALL NBA ROOKIE TEAM

G- Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers

G- Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers

F- Anthony Davis, New Orleans hornets

F- Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors

C- Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

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NBA MVP- LeBron James, Miami Heat

Defensive Player of the year- Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

Rookie of The Year- Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers

Most Improved Player – James Harden, Houston Rockets

6th Man of The Year – J.R. Smith, New York Knicks

Coach of The Year- Frank Vogel, Indian Pacers

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LeBron James or Kevin Durant…Who ya got? By @ProfessorCorria

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The sport of basketball is truly amazing. In no other team sport can the “who’s the best player in the world argument” be solved so organically. From Magic vs. Bird, Kobe vs. McGrady, Kobe vs. LeBron, to the moment that we have arrived to now, LeBron vs. Durant. One is a 28 year old, 6-9’ 270 pound locomotive, who is currently steamrolling through the NBA using a truly rare combination of Power, Speed, quickness, agility, handle, court vision, unselfishness and the ability to terrorize opponents with his defense. The other is a 24 year old 6-11 215 pound luminary, who is for all intents and purposes is an offensive Swiss army knife, who’s shooting, grace, and elegance often make it seems like he is just floating out there on the court. Durant and James are the two best players in the NBA by a wide margin, and they have no true weakness, just parts of their game’s that are stronger than others. When these two superstars matched up in the finals last June it was clear that LeBron was the hungrier of the two, having endured several playoff failures in prior seasons, and it showed. However, Durant still averaged an impressive 30 points per game on 53% shooting from the field, and some people(Skip Bayless & Stephen A. Smith) still thought that his play was subpar. Therein lies the best part of the Durant-James match up, they’re on great teams that will likely be battling for years to come in June and they play the same position so when they do match-up they can guard each other. Not to mention that Durant and James are very good freinds, who train together in the off-season.

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      There aren’t enough superlatives in the dictionary to describe LeBron James, he is truly the “created” player. Never in the history of sports have we seen a human being with the size, speed, and athleticism that James’ posses. Sometimes I look at LeBron and I wonder if we actually belong to the same species. Chew on this for a moment, he’s 4 inches and 30 pounds heavier then Calvin “Megtron” Johnson of the Detroit lions, and moves just as fast if not faster. He truly is the evolutionary basketball player that seems like he was generated in some secret laboratory. What can’t LeBron do? Think about that for a minute, what can’t LeBron James do on the basketball court. There are nights where he is the league’s best point guard, small forward and power forward all in the same game. LeBron is averaging a PER(Player Efficiency Rating) of 30.3, scoring 26.6 PPG on 18.8 Shot attempts per game, which is an astounding ratio, until you realize that he is shooting about 55% from the field.  King James is grabbing 8.3 Rebounds per game and giving out 7.1 assists per game and shooting 39% from the 3-point line. With the addition of a devastating post game, it’s almost as if LeBron unlocked the cheat codes and will now torment defenders with a plethora of inside/outside moves. The best parts of LeBron’s game are that he competes HARD every single night, and plays defense like he won’t eat unless his team gets a stop. He is playing with a calm and an ease that should frighten his opponents and it seems like he is truly in the prime of his career.

Let’s be clear, Kevin Durant is a CREATURE. We’ve never seen a 6-11 wing player dominate the NBA with his jump shot? And please believe that Mr. Durant’s jumper is a thing of beauty. He has it all, the mid-range, the pull up, running of screens, finishing at the hoop and getting out in transition. There is something almost regal about the manner in which Durant goes about his business. It seems like he almost plays with a quiet rage that is barely detectable until they zoom in on his face, after he’s buried another 25 foot bomb. A lot of people compared Durant to George “The Ice Man” Gervin because they both were skinny scorers, but their games have almost no similarities. Durant is akin to that of the great Larry Bird, although he is quicker and bird was a far better rebounder. Both men are members of the 50-40-90 club because of their 50% shooting from the field, 40% shooting from the three point line, and 90% shooting from the free-throw line. Currently Kevin Durant is averaging a PER of 29.1, scoring 29.6 PPG on 18.5 shot attempts per game, shooting 52% from the field, 42% from the 3 point line, and 91% from the charity stripe. Durant is getting 7.4 rebounds per game and 4.4 assists per game which shows how much his overall “floor game” is improving. He is becoming a very good defender, who is capable of smothering other teams with his quickness, length and ability to turn defense into offense with his side kick Russell Westbrook. The fact that his team trusted him to guard Kobe Bryant and LeBron James during the playoffs last year speaks volumes.

So who is the better player, Durant or James? There are plenty of arguments to be made for both players, and it seems like Durant is in the lead for MVP right now. Let’s face it, it’s only a two man race, sorry Carmelo. Would you rather have the devastating physical force that is LeBron James or the 6-11 scoring machine Kevin Durant? But as of right now I would have to say that the love child of Magic, Karl Malone and Michael Jordan is the clear choice over Durant. LeBron James has asserted him-self as the best player and to be honest it’s not really close. Durant has improved and closed the gap between the two players a bit, but it’s still pretty clear to any objective basketball fan who’s the king. Although if I was building a team from scratch it may be tempting to take Durant over LeBron because he is 4 years younger and has a skillset that is far less dependent on athletic ability than LeBron James. But that is a conversation for another day, for now the King reigns supreme.

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Kyrie Irving’s Got Next

Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James. Outside of being first ballot Hall of Famers, what do these men have in common? They make up an elite group of ballers that were selected to their first All-Star game prior to turning 21. A group, that on Thursday grew by one. Kyrie Irving, the 2nd year point guard of the Cleveland Cavaliers was selected to the 2013 NBA All-Star game, joining one of the most prestigious groups in NBA history. Irving has taken the NBA by storm the past year and a half, racking up accolades at a record pace, and he’s put the NBA on notice that he’s got next.

Now I’m sure you’ve heard the term, “wise beyond his years”, Kyrie Irving is accomplished beyond his years. This young man has won an 18 and under FIBA gold medal, became a McDonald’s All-American, USA Today All-American, ranked as the #1 PG in the country, signed with Duke University, became the #1 overall pick, won the MVP award at the Rising Stars Challenge, was selected to the NBA All-Rookie First Team, was crowned the NBA Rookie of the Year, and now, 2013 NBA All-Star. As previously stated, Irving is still two months away from turning 21. Yes, one of the leagues best point guards, still needs the help of a teammate to buy a drink on road trips.

I’ve followed Irving since his junior year at St. Patrick’s high school in New Jersey (pretty much the time he became a possibility to sign with Duke) At that point Irving was a solid PG, with very good upside at the next level, and possibly beyond. Irving dominated his senior year at St. Pat’s, including dropping 30 on current Spurs reserve PG Corey Joesph in a nationally televised game. Eventually becoming the nation’s top PG prior to heading off to Durham. Irving arrived at Duke with a big reputation, and even bigger expectations. Coach K even let the heralded guard wear #1, something that had never been done at Duke, even after former Duke great point guard Jason “Jay” Williams requested the number many years prior. Irving was handed the keys to the Duke squad, averaging 17.4 ppg on 53.2% shooting from the field, 5.1 apg, 3.8 rpg, and 1.5 spg through the team’s first 8 games, well on his way towards becoming the NCAA’s Freshman of the Year. Irving then suffered ligament damage in his right big toe, and was out until the NCAA tournament. He scored 28 in a sweet sixteen loss to Arizona and his short lived career at Duke had come to an abrupt end.

The Cleveland Cavaliers, who were still reeling from the departure of King James, decided to make Irving the new face of the franchise, taking him with the #1 overall pick. The 19 year old, who had only played a handful of games at the collegiate level was now in charge of filling the void of the leagues best player, and the city’s first son. Kyrie didn’t bat an eyelash and hit the ground running. He had ten 20+ point games in his first twenty three, with his breakout game coming against the Nets where he scored 32, with 21 of those coming in the 4th quarter. Irving finished the lockout shortened season averaging 18.5 ppg 5.4 apg and 3.4 rpg, shooting 47% from the field and 40% from long range. Irving nearly had a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio and shot 88% from the charity stripe.

In the summer of 2012, coming off of a stellar rookie season Irving was invited to Vegas to try out for the U.S. National Team as the 2012 Olympic Games approached. While Irving was a long-shot to make the squad, he elected to tryout for the U.S., instead of leading the Australian national team (Irving has dual citizenship). He dazzled coaches with his play on the court, often getting the best of former Olympians, and NBA vets. This was truly Irving’s coming out party, but a broken hand ended any chance he had at making the team. I expect that will not be the case in 2016.

Kyrie picked up where he left off at the end of his rookie campaign, scoring 29 points, grabbing 6 boards and dishing out 3 assists against the Wizards in this year’s opener. He injured his left index finger against the Mavs November 17th, and returned 12 games later against the Lakers, dropping 28 points, 11 dimes, and 6 rebounds in a rare Cavs victory.  Just 3 days later he suffered a fractured jaw in the 1st quarter in a game against Milwaukee, Irving finished the game, scoring 26. The very next day he took to the Madison Square Garden court with his Zoro like protective mask, and dropped 41 in a loss to the Knicks, a season and career high. Last Tuesday, Irving and his Cavs took on the man voted by the fans as the starting point guard for the east in next month’s All-Star Game, Rajon Rondo and the Boston Celtics. Irving scored 40, and quite frankly had Rondo on skates all night, in the Cavs 95-90 victory. Two days later Irving was named to the Eastern Conference All-Star roster. (Unfortunately, Rondo just suffered an ACL tear, and is out indefinitely. I wish him a speedy recovery.) Irving will likely now start at point guard for the east. Funny thing is, I initially finished writing this story this past Friday afternoon. Friday evening Kyrie scored 35 in a win against the Bucks, and followed that up with 32 and a game winning 3 with 0.7 seconds remaining on the clock, Saturday in Toronto. Irving has now recorded seven 30+ point games in the month of January. In his first 34 games this season, Irving is averaging 24.0 ppg 5.7 apg 3.6 rpg and 1.8 spg. He is shooting 47% from the field and 40% from 3 point range, with a slightly below 2:1 assist to turnover ratio.

Irving leads all NBA PG’s in scoring, he is 10th in field goal percentage, and 10th in 3 point field goal percentage. Since Irving isn’t on pace to play 70 games this season, he doesn’t qualify to be ranked in other major statistical categories pertaining to point guards, but here is where he would rank for the purpose of this piece. 23rd in apg, 12th in rpg, 10th in steals, 45th in assist to turnover ratio, 19th in free throw percentage, and 9th in minutes per game. As you can see he’s near the top in every scoring category, and a little behind in others that point guards need to excel in.

Irving averages nearly 24 points a game not because he wants to, but because he has to. Dion Waiters, the Cavs second leading scorer averages 14 a game, ten points less than Irving. Kyrie is the only Cav that can consistently win one on one match-ups and create his own shot. Whether it’s getting to the lane, and the line or pulling up for a mid range jumper, Irving can score at will. He has always been the type of player to crash the defensive boards and get out on the break leading to easy baskets for himself or a teammate. This coupled with his ability to break down a defender on an iso and get to the bucket have made the game come easy for Kyrie. He’s made tremendous strides with his medium and long range game in the past few years. The one time streaky shooter is now in the top ten percentage wise amongst point guards, and that average has been steady dating back to last season.

Kyrie is at his best when he is able to create on the fly, specifically for his teammates. He has great vision, whether is on a break or in a half court set. He is often able to see one or two moves ahead of the defense, but the lack of skill amongst his teammates doesn’t allow many of his reads to come to fruition. Irving has tremendous footwork, and often can split two defenders on a screen with ease. It’s pick your poison for opposing guards, go above the screen and the big is at Irving’s mercy, go under and he can pull up for the jumper. He also has a knack for attacking bigger defenders in the lane, either using a spin move or hesitations to get to the hoop. There isn’t many holes in this young man’s game and the scary thing is he continues to get better and better on a nightly basis.

It seems as if the few holes in Irving’s game are dictated by his durability. He’s had numerous injuries dating back to his freshman season at Duke that have sidelined him for a substantial amount of time. After bouncing back from a major toe injury nicely, he broke a hand, and then a finger, and most recently his jaw. While these injuries haven’t seemed to slow him down on the court you have to wonder, is it bad luck? Or is he indeed injury prone? If these injuries linger, and continue it could unfortunately end an illustrious career before it even begins.

When I think about Irving’s future, I wonder where it will take him. Not on the court but in geographic terms. His rookie deal will be up before you know it and I’d expect Cleveland to offer him the farm, but would that even have him stick around? The Cavs are 11-32 and are nowhere near playoff contenders. They have a very young, and promising nucleus led by Irving, power forwards Tristan Thompson, and Tyler Zeller, and lottery pick SG Dion Waiters. This team could gel nicely and contend, I’m not sure of it, but one thing I do know is that Irving is a lifelong winner and he’ll surely go where he can compete for a ring, or two. Maybe that’s in Cleveland, possibly with LeBron back home in a couple years (boy would that be fun), maybe as a Laker (they’ll need a PG soon), possibly as a Knick (he loves the bright lights), only time will tell, and we’ll all surely be watching.

The NBA is a guard driven league, and the crop is plentiful. Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Tony Parker, these guys are considered elite and any given night can be the NBA’s best point guard. While it may be premature to add Irving to that group, his play suggests that he’s not far away, and the gap is closing rapidly. In my eyes, Kyrie is on the cusp of being amongst the elite point guards in the NBA. He may not have the resume to be in the same sentence as them quite yet, but with his feel for the game, athleticism, scoring prowess, creativity, decision making and work ethic he will soon be mentioned in the same breath as the leagues best. His charisma and personalty can’t hurt either. His Pepsi commercials, where he plays seasoned street baller “Uncle Drew” are a major hit and were a huge boost to his off the court marketability. Irving has took the league by storm in just over a full season’s worth of games with his silky smooth play, and boyish charm. He stepped into a situation that not many 19 year old young men would’ve been able to handle. Not only has he flourished, but he’s put a franchise on his back, and we’ve yet to see him flinch. Kyrie Irving looks destined to be the NBA’s next big thing.