Hollinger: I Shudder to Think What Kyrie Irving will be at 25

In his latest edition of player profiles for the 2012-13 NBA season, ESPN’s resident statnik John Hollinger took on the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Amidst all of the number crunching and prognosticating (a must-read for you number types), Hollinger had the following to say about point guard Kyrie Irving.

I’m still big on the Irving bandwagon. Who wouldn’t be after he ranked fifth among point guards in PER as a 19-year-old rookie?

But I’ll say this: When they’re replacing you with Ramon Sessions for defensive purposes, that might be a sign you have work to do. As good as Irving was on offense, he was a horrifying, flaming train wreck on defense. Synergy rated him the worst defensive player in the league with at least 300 plays defended, opposing point guards ripped him for a 19.0 PER according to 82games.com, and the Cavs gave up 5.0 points per 100 possessions more with him on the court — even though his usual replacement, Sessions, was himself among the league’s most flammable point guards.

Irving is so young and skilled that one presumes he’ll make strong progress, especially after jumping into the NBA after just a handful of college games. Too often he just didn’t know what to do or where he was supposed to be, and that’s all stuff he’ll learn.

Meanwhile, he’s a breathtaking offensive talent with an airtight handle and deep shooting ability. Irving made 39.9 percent of his triples as a rookie and shot 60.4 percent at the basket, a nice combo that sums up his inside-outside threat. He also shot 87.2 percent from the line, which is amazing for a teenage rookie.

The one concern is that he played more as a scorer than as a passer, ranking only 58th among point guards in assist rate and 59th in pure point rating. Granted, there weren’t a lot of options, but to reach superstardom he’ll need to be a better distributor and play less as an undersized 2.

With all that said … if he’s this good at 19, I shudder to think what he’ll be at 25.

Hollinger predicts that the Cavaliers’ starting five will be Irving joining rookie Dion Waiters, recently re-signed Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao.  Hollinger predicts that Irving will put up 26.9 points and 7.3 assists per 40-minute contest with a PER of 23.1, representing a nice increase off of his Rookie of the Year campaign. Interestingly enough, he pegs Thompson with an average of 16 point and 10.5 rebounds a game, just north of the target placed upon him by head coach Byron Scott.

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  • BenRM

    I believe that NBA-caliber defense is usually something that most offensive players need to develop. It took LeBron a few years, and now he’s an elite defender.

    I’m really not all that worried about Kyrie’s defense. Byron will get it out of him.

  • Stinkfist

    15-10 from Thomas would be big. Throw in a couple blocks a game, and we have what I assume the front office was hoping for.

  • Lyon25

    Man 27 ppg from Kyrie would be fun, but lets hope he doesn’t have to avg that much.

  • JeBron_Lames

    Those predicted numbers for Kyrie and Tristan would be amazing, especially for Tristan. Bring on the season already!

  • maxfnmloans

    16-10 from TT? Yes, please

  • CSTDoug

    Good lord i’d be thrilled w/ 16 and 10 out of Tristan. Have no idea what to expect from Waiters, though.

  • mgbode

    how many minutes does Hollinger peg TT for on that 16/10 prediction?

    i mean, he paced 12/10 last year for 36min, but that is too many minutes for him IMO. i want the big guys going about 30min max (on average). TT was 10/9 per 30min last year (so that’s 3 more buckets he needs to find along with a rebound).

  • Joe

    All those stats are per 40 mins.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I keep forgetting that these averages Hollinger puts up are adjusted to per-40-minute pace. So he’s not really expecting a 16-10 from TT.

  • Steve

    Lebron wasn’t the sieve that Kyrie has been though. Sure, you give a young guy a chance to improve, and Byron’s previous young PGs developed into strong defensive player, but Kyrie doesn’t just have to improve, he has to improve a lot.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Stats are per 40 minutes.

  • AlexMathews

    Am I the only one who still has sad daydreams about MKG on the Cavs? He would fit on the roster so much better than Waiters in my opinion.

  • BenRM

    Well, physically, he’ll never match LeBron and never be the same kind of defender. I knew the comparison was weak. That said, I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe that Kyrie can go from being pretty terrible to perfectly acceptable in a few years.

    Will he ever be an elite defending PG? Probably not, but few are; that’s why they’re elite.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I disagree. I appreciate what MKG brings to the table… just don’t think he’s right for our team. We really needed someone who can put up points and also draw defenses out of the paint. A starting 5 of Kyrie, MKG, Gee, TT, and Varejao would not be a threat on the perimeter, so defenses would really be able to pack the paint.

  • Harv 21

    has to “improve a lot” to be what? Gary Payton? I’m sorry, this is crazy talk. At 19 he was one of the best offensive PGs in the game. The only thing that made him completely unstoppable his rookie year was zero scorers with whom to share the ball. If he improves defensively until he’s middle of the pack as an on-ball defender, if he’s at Boobie’s level, he’ll be a perennial MVP candidate.

  • mgbode

    so he’s expecting TT to average 1 less rebound and only 2-3 more pts/game than his adjusted pace from last year?

    hardly much improvement there.

  • mgbode

    scoring would be based on motion and getting open looks at the basket and definitely more transition basketball. also, plug in Zeller for TT or Andy and you have more mid-range shooting.

    neither here nor there now, but i’m not going to be completely rational when discussing that type of SF which I think we need to compete at the upper levels of the NBA these days anyway (and is now our biggest missing link – can’t address them all right away though)

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Word, but I think you still need perimeter shooters to make it work. The Heat don’t win the title unless Battier, Chalmers, and Miller provide the deep threat (and actually score when called upon). Push comes to shove, teams will go zone like the Mavericks did somewhat often in their run to the 2010-2011 title so they don’t have to follow you around while you’re slashing. They’ll just clog up the middle.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Yeah that’s a pretty weak prediction in my opinion. I would expect both his point total and his rebounding numbers to improve, if not simply because he’ll have more opportunity with Jamison gone.

  • mgbode

    but Waiters isn’t a perimeter shooter, so I’m not sure how he helps that 🙂

  • mgbode

    i definitely agree. and, if he can get his FG% up from the dreadful 44% it was last year, then that’s a 2pt swing by itself.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    He’s not as bad as he’s being billed… I mean, 36% isn’t bad for college. His form is awful, but I think defenses will still be forced to respect him out there. I’m hoping he works on his deep shooting a lot though.

  • Steve

    He has to improve a lot to be middle of the pack defensively.

    Perennial MVP candidates (Lebron, Wade, Howard, Paul, and now Durant and Rose) are elite on both sides of the ball. Guys who are just mediocre on defense are closer to borderline all-stars, or #2 guys on championship teams.

  • BrownsFanSF

    Honestly from some of the numbers I’ve seen, he already shot near the “48-50% sweet spot” you want from 4s when he was on the court with Kyrie. I think a lot of people are underestimating how much just being on the floor with our creator will help him.

  • Steve

    We’re targeting Irving as “that guy” who can bring us our next championship. ~5th best PG in the league is not that guy, unless you get a lot of help around him. See Harv below, we’re talking perennial MVP candidate. If we’re talking about a guy who will make a few all-star games and get us to respectability, then sure, I won’t nitpick.

  • BrownsFanSF

    Funny story, that number was higher than Beal or Barnes – both billed as elite shooters.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Shamrock: I shudder to think where Kyrie will be at 25. 😉

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Closer the shot the higher the % which is how those numbers got skewed.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Boobie’s level good grief!

  • mgbode

    Beal and Barnes had a history with higher % though (Beal’s in HS) and both have very good form (which matters more and more in the NBA with guys closing down on you quickly)

  • mgbode

    umm, he was 5th best PG at 19yo.

  • eldaveablo

    This line from Hollinger’s article made me feel REALLY good about Waiters: “Wings with profiles this strong virtually never fail”. Not a guarantee, but nothing is.

  • Steve

    5th best if we look at offense only. You have to take into account that he may be the worst regular in the league on defense.

    When the Cavs drafted Lebron, they got a borderline all-star season, and improve by 18 wins and about 7 points per 100 possessions.

    When the Cavs drafted Irving, they improved by 7 wins (per 82 games) and 2 points per 100 possessions.

    Why are people so sure Irving was so good?

  • zonk

    ummm, and he is 20 now. So when he is ready to be the best PG in the league he will be in New York, or LA, or Boston.

  • zonk

    That is most likely per 40 minutes, not per game as it is quoted in the article. As a rookie, he averaged 8.2 points and 6.5 rebounds in 23.7 minutes. That means in an up and down rookie year, he averaged 13.8 points and 11.0 rebounds per 40 minutes. So that is not a major jump, it is just in how it is calculated. He should get slightly more minutes in year 2, but with the addition Zeller and a remotely healthy Andy, I am not sure he is getting close to 40 minutes a game.

  • BenRM

    I’m not sure if I detect sarcasm or not. But just in case I’m reading you wrong; Steve Nash won 2 MVPs and he is a major defensive liability.

  • Jim

    This is revisionist history. Lebron was not a good on the ball defender early in his career. He played good help defense, mostly because he is/was so athletic and was able to play the passing lanes. His on ball defense has improve substantially as he has grown as a player. No reason Kyrie’s can’t as well.

  • Steve

    I agree with all of this, but his first year, Lebron was a mediocre defender – his Drtg was 104, the same as the entire team’s rating. Kyrie’s Drtg was 110, 2nd worst in this team among anyone who received anything resembling regular minutes, ahead of only Sessions. The average guy Kyrie was responsible for was as efficient offensively as a borderline all-star. Sure, Kyrie will improve, but that doesn’t mean his defense last year was comparable to Lebron’s rookie year in any way.

  • Steve

    Nash was regarded as one of the worst MVP winners of all time (both times). And it still took one of the greatest PG-coach combinations on offense. When Irving directs one of the most efficient offenses the game has ever seen, we can start to consider ignoring his defense.

  • BenRM

    get over yourself dude. finish statement.

  • mgbode

    we aren’t ignoring defense. everyone knows Irving was bad on defense. but, we could see he was trying and willing. he has to learn what to do. he was 19yo, so we’re willing to believe he’ll get better in time.
    why is that so hard to understand?

  • mgbode

    we pretty much control his rights until he’s 26yo (through RFA). longer if we build a good enough team around him 🙂

  • mgbode

    Durant is not elite on defense. nor is Nowitzki. Howard hadn’t been on offense until the last couple of seasons (even then it’s debateable if he’s elite).

  • mgbode

    quite possibly. and hopefully.

  • porckchopexpress

    I’m sorry, but you simply have no clue what you are talking about. I seriously doubt you watch basketball at all and are simply baiting an argument. Chris Paul is by no means elite on both sides of the ball. Wade in his prime was a very good defender but he picked his spots. Durant and Rose are on the upswing but by no means “elite”. Ands since you said elite on both sides of the ball yes Howard is an elite defender but his offensive game is a joke.
    Please watch the game before you talk about it.

  • RobertNero

    didnt watch many cavs games last season I see….

  • Yup

    I respect you, honestly but please never, ever use HS stats to show or prove anything. Couldn’t be more useless…

  • mgbode

    trust me, i know. it’s more of a “he has very good form” and “had success in the past” type of thing (since he only had 1 year in college). but, i know it’s hard to take any HS numbers seriously with the diluted talent pool.