Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving has not shot particularly well this season, but the problems are starting in the first quarter. Before we break down where specifically Kyrie is struggling from on the court, let’s take a look at his overall shot chart for the 2013-14 season through 20 games:
Look at all the colors! Yeah, Kyrie isn’t shooting up to par, and one of the biggest problem areas seems to be at the rim, where he just isn’t being able to finish as efficiently as he did last season. Speaking of last season, let’s throw something up as a comparison to Kyrie’s shooting slump this season:
So we can kind of see the problem here. Kyrie is taking a lot more shots from the right side, especially shots that fall in the low-percentage category. Irving shot a total of 16 shots from the corner sides last season, connecting on six of them. Already this season, Irving has shot 23 times from this area, converting on seven of those attempts.
Irving’s shooting struggles have troubled me this season, and the pattern I’m seeing is that the 2012-13 All-Star is missing the bulk of his shots to start the game, and there are a few factors as to why we are seeing this downward trend in his shooting. After shooting 44.8 percent from the field last season, 37.9 percent from three and finishing with an effective shooting percentage of 50.3 percent, this season has been a different story. Irving is currently shooting 39.4 percent from the field, 30.4 percent from three and—the most alarming shooting statistic—has an effective field goal percentage of 43.2.
Like I said, these dips in Irving’s shooting habits stem from the first quarter. I sifted through every shot Irving has taken in the first frame, and I found some statistics that showcase just how much trouble Irving is having with finding his shot this season.
As you can see from the first shot chart, Irving hasn’t finished very well at the rim, and that’s a major issue. Although he hasn’t risen to a level of paint dominance where he’s treading in the green around the rim, he, simply put, needs to be at least in the yellow for such a high-percentage shot. Right now, on the season and in the first quarter, he’s very much so in the red.
So, here’s a glimpse/breakdown of how Kyrie has shot in the first quarter with areas he is underperforming in marked with a sad face and areas where he is over performing marked with a happy face (warning, some percentages may send you into a state of shock):
AT THE RIM – 9 of 19 (47.4 percent)
3-9 FEET – 2 of 14 (14.3 percent)
10-15 FEET – 5 of 12 (41.7 percent)
16-23 FEET – 6 of 18 (33.3 percent)
BEYOND THE ARC – 6 of 17 (35.3 percent)
OVERALL – 28 of 80 (35 percent)
FREE THROWS – 6 of 9 (66.7 percent)
All of the frowny faces. So what’s the problem? Well, Kyrie is shooting much more from the perimeter in areas that he wasn’t usually shooting in the past two seasons. This is because of the lack of a perimeter offensive threat in the starting lineup and also because Kyrie is playing more off the ball with added ball handlers to the roster like Jarrett Jack. The second reasoning can be crossed out as to why he’s struggling in the first quarter, because Irving is not usually playing by Jack’s side or going off the ball with Dion Waiters in the opening frame. This is when Irving is teamed up with guys like C.J. Miles and Matthew Dellavedova at the shooting guard and Alonzo Gee at the small forward spot.
Not having a viable perimeter threat in the lineup to start the game is leading Irving to take things into his own hands. The lack of offensive production from guys like Miles and Gee, who both shot below 20 percent from the field this past week, is forcing the Cavs to rely on Irving’s perimeter game more, which is not helping the team at the moment. Kyrie is doing a lot of dribbling around trying to create opportunities for himself because his backcourt friends just aren’t doing him any good. You can only feed the ball to Tristan Thompson and Andrew Bynum so much before defenses find out how one-dimensional your offense is, and that is what’s leading Irving to settle for low-percentage long-range jumpers.
So the solution? I want Dion back in the starting lineup. He said it best himself after the game Friday night: there needs to be more urgency in the Cavs earlier in games. Waiters can provide this much more on offense than Miles can at this point, and Dellavedova for that reason as well. The problem at the 3 can also be fixed by inserting Earl Clark back into the starting lineup. If you read RDE writer Trevor Magnotti’s piece on Clark, then you’ll know how much more fluid and dangerous he would make our offense.
So let’s get to it, Coach Brown. Road losses will continue to pile up if we are seeing little to no production from our wing players early on. Along with the Utah Jazz, the Cavaliers are the worst road team in the NBA with a 1-10 mark. With five away games left in 2013, I’m hoping to see a change sooner rather than later of course. That could–and should–come as early as this week.