Point guard Kyrie Irving is determined to prove that he is among the NBA’s elite in his sophomore season. Fans are already discussing the possibility of a sophomore slump, but even with missing time at the end of last season and in the summer, Irving has still looked nothing short of impressive. Cleveland fans know first-hand that he is capable of achieving NBA stardom, but most importantly know that he is focused on making the players around him better to ensure success as a team.
Going into the 2011 season ESPN, which does a yearly NBA Rank, had Irving at the No. 140 spot. With his flashy cuts to the hoop, conversions in clutch situations and an All-Star MVP award, the former Duke guard easily ran away with Rookie of the Year honors. His inaugural season, one that put him in the same class as Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, Allen Iverson and LeBron James, allowed him to jump 118 spots. NBA Rank had Irving at No. 22, and many predict that he will be able to crack the top 10 in a couple seasons.
With all the accolades that Irving has collected in the short span of one year, the question of how often will we see him on the court this season comes into play. In 51 games last season he averaged 30.5 minutes on the floor, and Cleveland needed him to take on that workload in order to win games. He ranked third among rookies in that category, trailing behind Minnesota guard Ricky Rubio (41 games) and Detroit guard Brandon Knight (66 games).
I think we will see a more involved Irving this season, as depth at the point guard position is lacking on the Cavalier roster. Also, in order for a team to function at its full potential the floor general of the squad must be out on the court for an extended amount of time. What head coach Byron Scott would usually do with Irving last season was rest him for a good portion of the second quarter, allowing him to shine when his team needed him the most in crunch time.
With point guard Jeremy Pargo the current front-runner to back up Irving at the one, I don’t think it would be very smart to rest him for more than 12 minutes on average per game. Washington Wizards guard John Wall, who is entering his third year in the league, registered 36.2 minutes every game. Wall also started off his NBA career averaging 37.8 minutes per night, so he saw a slight decrease from his rookie to sophomore season. That won’t be the case with Irving this year.
If I were to put a number to the amount of minutes the reigning Rookie of the Year will be on the court per game, it would be somewhere between the 35-38 minute region. We know by know that he is susceptible to injuries, so Scott won’t want to work Irving into the ground early in the season. The tough-minded Cavaliers coach knows how to condition his players. I believe Irving would have played more frequently if he wasn’t coming into his rookie year with only 11 games of college experience under his belt.
Last season Irving recorded an impressed PER (player efficiency rating) of 21.49, and with last year’s leading scorer, Antawn Jamison, with the Lakers, we will see a more explosive Kyrie on the court very often.
How many minutes do you think Kyrie will register per game this season?