Kyrie Irving is a breathtaking offensive talent. He is the best ball handler of all time. He is one of, if not the best, under-the-rim finishers of all time as well. He’s influenced pick-up basketball more than any current NBA player other than Stephen Curry.
He also holds his own defensively when he chooses to do so. He was third on the Dallas Mavericks in blocks per game last season behind Christian Wood and Maxi Kleber after being acquired from the Brooklyn Nets.
And yet, depending on who you speak to, those talents aren’t always the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Irving. The off-the-court questions, the changing moods, and the hasty exits from multiple seemingly ideal scenarios are the immediate things that some people think of. Irving is divisive. He provokes different emotions in different people. Everyone either loves him or rolls their eyes and that is unlikely to change any time soon.
How often will he be available? Certain fans will always be upset that Luka Doncic dominates the ball. Those fans complain that Doncic does not allow Irving to shine his brightest. But there is no question that a Doncic and Irving-led offense will be absolutely dominant no matter the questions.
Irving is an elite off-ball player who also has the ability to completely dominate on his own when he chooses. Paired with Doncic’s dominant game, this does not leave an offense many choices. The possibility of Irving taking many of the pet actions that once belonged to Tim Hardaway Jr. in guard-guard screening actions is salivating. There is a reason the Mavericks averaged over 120 points per 100 possessions with Doncic and Irving sharing the floor.
But all of those possibilities only matter if Irving is on the court. Irving has played 163 games over the last four seasons. That comes out to nearly 41 games per year, and this team will need more from him than that. Whether the missed games come from physical ailments, which Irving has had many, or other considerations, the Mavericks need Irving to play a minimum of 65 games if they are likely to meet their expectations.
Best Case Scenario
Doncic and Irving are the best offensive backcourt in the history of basketball. This may seem insane, but that possibility is very real if everything goes right. Doncic and Irving also share enough of the offensive load to allow themselves to compete on the defensive end. The improved defense, coupled with added size and athleticism up front, places the Mavericks in a race for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Worst Case Scenario
Irving plays 20 games and/or something behind the scenes happens to where he feels the need to force his way out. Some people dislike Irving and might see the second option as a good thing, but it is not. Irving is the best player Doncic has ever played with. He is also influential throughout the league. If Doncic cannot make things work with Irving, it may lead to more than whispers that Doncic is difficult for stars to play with.
25 plus points per game on fabled 50/40/90 shooting splits in at least 60 games played and those stats leading to a playoff berth.
Irving is who he is. It is incredibly doubtful that anyone’s opinion on Irving is going to be changed at this point. He has a very particular set of skills, skills he has acquired over a long and storied career, and those skills make him a nightmare for opposing defenses. The only question for Irving at this point is how often he is on the court to utilize them.