The Case For Kyrie Irving To Play More Shooting Guard


Kyrie Irving already has LeBron James playing point guard. There’s no harm in him disarming opposing shooting guards with his handles and smooth touch.

It’s already a given that at times, though Kyrie Irving has proven himself to be among the leagues best point guards, LeBron James will handle the ball on the way up the floor and initiated the offense.

As one of the league’s premier passers, and a unique physical specimen, James is able to use his court vision and offensive awareness to set up shots for his teammates in the post as well. His cerebral ability leads to unprecedented dominance, and for that reason Kevin Love isn’t featured in the post as much as LeBron.

The same ultimately happens to Irving.

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However, when LeBron sets up Irving, his shooting percentage skyrockets. In the regular season, Irving shot 44.8 percent on two-point field goals overall, he shot 49.1 percent on those same attempts when assisted by a LeBron James pass. In the playoffs, as Irving was sensational throughout, LeBron James still increased Irving’s two-point field goal percentage from 47.5 percent to 49.5 percent.

In addition, seven of the Cleveland Cavaliers top ten scoring lineups in the regular season featured Matthew Dellavedova at point guard. There’s no problem with Irving playing shooting guard.

If NBA adages hold true, Irving’s position is defined by who he can defend. Last year, when the shooting guard was one of the premier player in the league, the Cavaliers shied away from using Irving at shooting guard much, yet allowed Dellavedova or Iman Shumpert, two players of similar height, to guard the shooting guards.

Dellavedova is now a Milwaukee Buck and Shumpert is a trade asset.

In the 2016 NBA Finals, a series relevant because of the physical condition Irving was in and it’s the most recent, high-level NBA competition Irving faced, Irving was matched up against Klay Thompson at times as Shumpert defended Stephen Curry and the results weren’t bad.

Thompson made some contested shots because he’s a great shooter, but Irving had solid positioning on Thompson, and the other Golden State Warriors he switched onto, that would allow him to jump the passing lanes and poke the ball away when being fronted.

Irving can guard shooting guards as well, though maybe not as well as Shumpert or Dellavedova.

Often criticized for his shot selection, the Cavaliers should play Irving at shooting guard more because having a point guard that can find him for open shots will improve Irving’s shot selection.

By making the game easier on Irving a domino effect should occur.

James won’t have to play tug-of-war with his heir apparent. Without both LeBron and Irving having to be the players that feed Love, the entire big three will be allowed to thrive as a point guard finds them all in position to score.

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This option should definitely be explored if J.R. Smith isn’t re-signed. The only player who could single-handedly replace Smith’s three-point output is Irving. In the playoffs, Smith made 65 three-pointers, Irving made 51. Smith shot 43.0 percent from three-point range, Irving shot 44.0 percent.

Irving provides his own mismatch from shooting guard as well as he’s going to create space to shoot against nearly all of the defenders that he’s matched up against. Irving’s ability to attack a defender’s lateral movements with advanced ball-handling moves the best in the league.

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Irving shrinks himself on the way to the rim to get his shot off, further taking advantage of his shorter stature compared to that of his defenders. Irving will draw fouls easily as defenders try to catch up with him because star shooting guards in the league, such as James Harden and Eric Gordon, don’t have the lateral agility or defensive intensity to keep up with Irving.

There are other very talented shooting guards who stand at Irving’s height and aren’t at a disadvantage because of it such as Dwyane Wade (6-foot-4), Monta Ellis (6-foot-3), and Allen Iverson (5-foot-11). All of these players have one trait in common, transcendent talent. Playing more shooting guard puts Irving in the best position for him to utilize his Mamba Mentality.

Lastly, like the Golden State Warriors saw with Curry, teams will try to get the ball out of Irving’s handles more early as well. Having opposing teams focus on a ball handler that’s not LeBron James or himself puts in a position to catch-and-go, rather than pass-and-go or rush and take a bad shot early in the shot clock as defenders do their best to get the ball out of his hands as he crosses halfcourt.

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Playing a point guard with Irving wouldn’t hurt the Cavaliers, it could help.