If you look at the raw per game averages for Kyrie Irving there are not many signs of growth. Some people have said he has plateaued already. In terms of scoring, he’s hasn’t changed much, however he has become a better and more willing passer.
Irving came in scoring. He had a solid rookie season averaging 18 ppg on 46% shooting from the field and 39% from 3-point range. As he’s battled injury plagued seasons those numbers are consistent for the most part with his scoring going up slightly. Kyrie hasn’t taken that leap like other players because he was pretty good from the start.
His best season came in his first year with LeBron James. He shot 41% from 3-point range while averaging 21.7 ppg. Although it took a while for him to mesh with James and Kevin Love, Kyrie got better playing off the ball. He played in the most games of his career (75) and he made the playoffs for the first time. The season ended with him breaking his knee cap in game one of the NBA Finals.
If you can remember there were times in that first season with LeBron that Kyrie would just dribble and not pass to any teammates while LeBron just stood in the corner. Kyrie’s best asset is dribbling and scoring, he can get pass anyone and get up a shot at any moment. In order for him to continue to grow as a player he had to become a better playmaker for his team.
Last season he missed the first 24 games and it took him a while to find his groove. His timing was off when he came back and the big 3 had to find their chemistry again. If you look at his numbers, it was a down year in terms of per game averages but he finished the season well and we all know what he did in the playoffs.
Kyrie Irving will surpass all his numbers from last season because he is healthy now. If you look at the numbers Irving is having a career year. He’s averaging the most shots of his career while shooting career highs from the field and 3-point range. He’s averaging 24.6 ppg and 5.7 apg although that is not a career high. Irving’s career high for double-doubles in a season is seven and that was back in the 2013-14 season. He played in 71 games that year. Irving already has seven double-doubles this season in just 41 games.
Before this season Irving never had back-to-back games with 10+ assists. He had a stretch in December where he had 10+ assists in three straight games and 10+ assists in five of seven games. In terms of total assists, he is on pace to break his previous high of 433 which he had during the 2013-14 season. That was the only season of his career in which he had over 400 assists.
In his most recent game against Russell Westbrook, Kyrie made the plays which made you say “Wow” and they will be on all the highlights. As I watched I noticed some crisp passing from Irving. Not just assists to a cutting Tristan Thompson but the willingness to make the pass to LeBron who then finds someone in the corner. Irving finished with 10 assists, just like he did on Christmas against Steph Curry. The Cavs are 7-0 when Irving has 10+ assists this season.
Irving’s next step and maybe leap as player has to come at the free throw line. Despite being a great ball handler who can get to the basket at will, Irving is only 15th in total drives this season. Not bad but he’s just 22nd in drawing fouls on those drives. He’s behind guys like Ramon Sessions, Sean Kilpatrick and even Andrew Harrison in drawing fouls on drives.
The top guys who drive and draw fouls are Russell Westbrook, DeMar DeRozan, James Harden, Isaiah Thomas. Even a guy like Damian Lillard who doesn’t have as many drives as the top guys still manages to get to the line a lot on drives. Kyrie is 13th in free throw attempts per game among point guards and 11th in total attempts. He’s averaged five free throws just once in his career and he only played in 59 games that season. He’s a great free throw shooter, 86% for his career. If he could get his attempts up to maybe six or seven attempts, that makes him a more efficient scorer.
Kyrie Irving has the scoring and the shooting already. His growth is not the same as most players but he is showing signs. The passing is coming along and he’s becoming more efficient. He’s getting better at the little things and that will continue to make him a better player.