Cavs’ Irving listed as “most overrated” player in NBA in recent ESPN column

Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving is listed as the Most Overrated Player in the NBA by ESPN.com’s Kevin Pelton in his most recent PER Diem column.

Per Pelton, Irving drawing an #NBARank of No. 8 in the league, while conceivable based on potential, is “premature” due to health concerns and a lack of overall accomplishments.

The #NBArank panel placed Irving eighth in the league this season, and though Irving undeniably has that kind of talent, putting him in the top 10 is premature because of defense and durability. Last season, the Cavaliers — never a defensive juggernaut under the best of circumstances — allowed 1.7 more points per 100 possessions with Irving on the floor, per NBA.com/Stats. Adjusting for his teammates, xRAPM (a version of adjusted plus-minus) found that Irving gave back two-thirds of his offensive value at the defensive end, making him only a slightly above-average contributor.

Of course, Irving doesn’t have any value when he’s on the bench, and he has missed a combined 38 games in his first two NBA seasons — that after being limited to 11 games in his lone college campaign. To justify a top-10 ranking, Irving will have to stay healthy and effective at both ends of the floor.</blockquote>

Irving’s ranking among the annual ESPN list was a topic in a recent edition of WFNY’s “The Diff” column. “By the ever-controversial Wins Produced/48, Kyrie Irving was right around average last season” writes Jacob Rosen. “Only a handful of guards are viewed that favorably in general. But even in the context of those, Irving was sandwiched in between DJ Augustin and Jeff Teague, nowhere near the highest echelon.

Naturally, there is a bit of a debate regarding the importance or weight of ESPN’s annual #NBARank list. If anything, this edition of PER Diem, when reduced, is a column about a column.

Others receiving the ‘overrated’ tag are the New York Knicks (East), Golden State Warriors (West), Doc Rivers (head coach), Andrew Wiggins (draft prospect) and Marco Bellinelli (newcomer).

[Related: The Diff: Did #NBARank actually overrate Kyrie Irving?]

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    ESPN doesn’t want to show Kyrie to much love this is just an effort to balance things out. Nobody should get their knickers in a twist. Who cares let the youngster play and enjoy what he does. He’s still plenty young enough to get even better.

    Btw not a household name and not flashy but Teague is a solid PG. Augustin on the other hand, not sure how he “ranks” anywhere remotely close to either Irving or Teague.

  • mgbode

    ESPN creates list ranking Irving so that ESPN can criticize ranking of Irving.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    What he said! 😉

  • BenRM

    I honestly don’t know who Kevin Pelton is. A quick google search reveals he’s a stats guy from the Pacific Northwest?

  • Will

    Why is “NBA Free” writing about Kyrie Irving?

  • Steve

    Pelton is most certainly not a guy who gives a crap about that kind of nonsense. He’s about as impartial as it gets.

  • Steve

    Everybody (well, a lot of people at least) love lists and rankings. It allows ESPN to bring up quick talking points that are easily debateable. At least here Pelton defends his points, whereas the #NBARank nonsense was gut feelings and whims.

  • Steve

    One of the original stat guys in the NBA. Wrote for 82games and Basketball Prospectus. Consulted for the Pacers.

  • BenRM

    Ah. Thanks.

  • Shawn

    Just. Get. Buckets.

  • Steve

    I’m a fan, though apparently some here are not. The guy genuinely loves basketball, and is quite accessible for a national writer. His work with APBR and 82games pretty much got the advanced stats movement off the ground in basketball.

  • Harv 21


    Man, does this FROST me. People in big cities thing we’re NOBODY. Well, at least we didn’t fall in something meaningful, like the Power Rankings.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I don’t pay attention to all of the writers let alone listen to the blowhards for ESPN anymore so I have no idea on Pelton I was simply referring to what mgbode commented upon below.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Well obviously I wouldn’t be a suitor for this guy since I’m not an all believing stat geek. 😉

  • Steve

    Maybe if you don’t pay attention and don’t even know who he is, you should refrain from commenting?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I know you didn’t just tell me what to do Junior I suggest you pump the brakes, take a breath, collect yourself and go back to what I originally posted. If you do you’ll see I never commented on your boy Pelton I commented on how one day ESPN ranks Irving high and praises him and the next, with this column, they downgrade him as mgbode so eloquently pointed out.

    Now you have a nice day!

  • Steve

    And of course, your post came before his, so I’m not sure how you were referring to what he said.

  • architrance


  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Junior junior I was referring to what mgbode wrote in a less eloquent fashion. Mystery solved don’t hurt yourself!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Yea it’s not like they haven’t done this before. I think Deadspin called them out a month or so ago on this very tactic.

  • Steve

    ESPN writers don’t think in lockstep, some guys can think Irving is the 8th best player in the league, someone else can go “whoa, that’s way too high”. I don’t get why anyone thinks there’s something to call out here.

  • turnercr

    Typical ESPN. Rank someone high, then say he’s too high. And then start up on ATH and PTI for tomorrow. “Is Irving Overrated” zzzz…. snore. Same crap different day. Although I do like ATH. About the only ESPN program I don’t hate

  • Steve

    Well that settles that then. Judge the book by the cover, not by the material inside. And definitely ignore that what’s inside is changing the landscape of the league.

  • Steve

    Ugh, do people really think that ESPN is an entity of just one thought? Sometimes it’s not a conspiracy, whether to hype Irving enough that he’ll leave (when he was ranked 8th) or to avoid showing him love (this time). Sometimes people just have differing opinions.

    Yes, ESPN has shown that debate sells, but as anyone who bothered to read the article would see, Pelton backs up his points strongly, he’s not trolling like Bayless.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Oh check yoself before you wreck yoself!

  • mgbode

    Steve, I believe you are merely missing our point. We have grown weary of ESPN purposefully creating these debates/controversies. Yes, they have multi-faceted thoughts, but, as you point out, the debate is what sells and so they pit these differing opinions against each other and yell loudly (backed up points for some, not so much for others).

    Many simply do not want our sports to become the same as our politics, but the current trend of programming is going that route.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    It’s not that he’s trolling… it’s that he’s arguing against a completely arbitrary ranking. If he wants to call out Kyrie Irving for not performing at an All-Star level or franchise player as many suggest he is, then that’s the point to make… no need to reference a ranking system that has no underlying stats to argue against.

  • turnercr

    I didn’t say he was. He does have stats that back up his argument which is a refreshing change for ESPN. But if you don’t think this is intentional you’re crazy. As you said debate sells

  • stryker1121

    I have a knee-jerk reaction to this. Stay tuned.

  • Rick Manning

    I hate to say it, but right now Kyrie is overrated. He doesnt play defense (not yet anyway) his assist to turnover ratio is nothing to write home about, and hes scored a bunch of points by dominating the ball on a bad team. Not saying he doesnt have the potential to be great because clearly he does, but when you look at him objectively you realize he has a long way to go.

  • David Hutton

    Whatever! NBA executives listed the players they would want to build a franchise around. Kyrie was No. 3, behind James and Durant. I think NBA executives might just know a thing or two about talent. The Cavaliers are going to be a team to watch this season, and part of the reason is Kyrie Irving.

  • Steve

    I don’t think he’s limiting it to just NBARank, it’s just an easy way for him to point out what the perception of Irving is.

    He does make, and defend the point that Irving has been a “slightly above-average contributor”. We’re focusing way too much on the mention of NBARank

  • Steve

    And I reiterate the point – read the entire article. This isn’t the spawn of some manipulated debate. Pelton knows what he’s talking about it and he backs it up. This article is not following that trend, and its wildly incorrect to just lump it as everything else at ESPN ( and as you point out, not just sports).

    Judge the actual merit of his argument, and not what you simply expect to come from espn.com

  • Tsunami

    Yeah, it’s true. Kyrie is an incredible scoring talent – and my guess is he becomes at least not abysmal on defense at some point. But that espn ranking thing had him in the top 10? Not a chance, yet. I love Kyrie – Pelton is absolutely right though.

  • Wow

    People still pay attention to ESPN?