The Brooklyn Nets have not had a player that could score at will like Kyrie Irving since Julius Erving. Jason Kidd was a dominant player, but he was more of a playmaker than a facilitator. Deron Williams showed flashes for the Nets before injuries, but a poor work ethic destroyed his career. Kyrie Irving came into Brooklyn after a controversial tenure with the Celtics, and many fans, including myself, wanted to keep D’Angelo Russell instead. Russell is four years younger than Irving and faced fewer injuries, but it’s Irving that’s having the better start to the season.
Kyrie Irving is 3rd in the NBA in PPG, 4th in PER, and 8th in assists per game. Irving has carried the Nets into a playoff spot with his electric play. He is the first player that I’ve watched in a Nets uniform that can single-handedly dismantle the opposing team. What makes Irving so elusive is his ability to make shifty dribbling moves to create open space for himself in isolation. Against the Minnesota Timberwolves on opening night, Irving put his skills on display with otherworldly handles.
In the second play of this video, Kyrie Irving is guarded by Karl-Anthony Towns in the pick-and-roll. Towns is obviously the larger defender, therefore Irving cannot drive on the seven-foot center. Irving is able to act like he’s driving towards the paint to freeze Towns. Towns’ body weight is now being pushed towards the basket, and once Irving stutter steps away from the paint, he has an open jumper. Kyrie Irving can make such a complicated move appear simple. His basketball IQ is unrivaled, and he uses that to his advantage over Karl-Anthony Towns. A typical NBA player would kick the ball out to Joe Harris at the three-point line once they see that Towns covered the paint, but not Irving. He sees the game with outstanding vision and knows how to take advantage of the situation at hand.
The primary concern with signing Kyrie Irving was that he couldn’t be a leader, which was shown during his time in Boston. Irving was thought of as a locker room cancer, and his reputation was tarnished after the Celtics debacle. However, this is not the case in Brooklyn, there are no issues here. After the Nets win against the Trailblazers, head coach Kenny Atkinson was asked about Irving’s leadership qualities, “good thing Kyrie is carrying our message, and he repeats it. It just carries a lot more weight. It’s just how it is in this league… Kyrie coaches [Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie] and holds them accountable, and coaches them hard, which is good.”
When the Nets signed Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, Irving was seen as a necessary evil to bring Durant to Brooklyn. However, Irving has surpassed all expectations and is looking like the player we expected when he left Cleveland in 2017.