Los Angeles Lakers center. Green Bay Packers quarterback. New York Yankees center fielder. Cleveland Cavaliers point guard.
These are all positions that carry with them the weight of decades of legendary figures. Kyrie Irving was taken with the first pick overall this week by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was instantly compared to recent first pick point guards John Wall and Derrick Rose. He’s apparently not as quick or athletic as those two but a better shooter. Many don’t expect him to as good as those two – Rose is, after all, the MVP.
But let’s slow down for a minute. How will Kyrie stack up against the point guards of Cavalier past?
Are we happy with Mark Price as the ceiling for Kyrie? Or does he have to be a league MVP like Derrick Rose or the Cavs last #1 overall pick? Price is the franchise assists leader and 3 point fgs leader – accumulating these numbers in a career interrupted and shortened by injuries. He led a Cavaliers team that was one of the best in the league – likely NBA champions if not for Michael Jordan. He made four all-star games, including 3 years in a row from ’92-94 during the peak of that team’s run. It will be hard for Irving to be the shooter that Price was, but it is one of his strengths if you believe the scouting reports.
It’s a toss up between the ’90’s Indians and those Cavs for my favorite Cleveland team. Price was the leader on a pretty remarkable and fun team to watch – would it be a disappointment if that’s how it played out for Kyrie when it’s all said and done.
What about Terrell Brandon? I was at the Coliseum for the 1991 Draft party when the Cavs passed on Greg Anthony at 11 and took Brandon, a relative unknown from Oregon. Everyone was in love with the UNLV guys and were confused and angry at Wayne Embry. As soon as Mark Price declined and was traded to Washington, Brandon made the All-Star game in ’96 and ’97. Sports Illustrated labeled him “The Best Point Guard in NBA” during this peak. I realize everything’s relative when comparing eras, but it would be an amazing achievement for Kyrie to be given that title one day.
Reading that SI profile again, I find the upbringing and thoughtful demeanor of Brandon to be comparable to what I’ve seen and heard of Irving. We’ll be lucky if he turns out to have the same attitude as Brandon. Obviously, the one hope is that Irving far exceeds the longevity of Brandon’s success in Cleveland.
Andre Miller was taken 8th overall in the ’99 draft. He was on the all-rookie first team. Within three years, he was averaging a double-double with 16.5 points and nearly 11 assists per game. He’s been a journeyman and bounced around the league playing for 5 different teams. That journey started when the Cavs traded him to the Clippers in the infamous Darius Miles deal. Miller has had success everywhere he’s gone. He’s a good NBA player – you can’t label that pick a bust. The hope is that Irving will be exceed the success Miller enjoyed in Cleveland and, like Brandon, far exceed the time he spent as a Cavalier.
Lastly, the Cavs took John Bagley with the 12th overall pick in the 1982 draft. He lasted in Cleveland for only five years – peaking with an average of 11.7 ppg and 9.4 apg in the ’85-86 season. Bagley is somewhat of a forgotten Cavalier – known more for his success with the Celtics in the early ’90’s. It’s safe to say that Irving’s career would be a major disappointment if it compared to this past first round point guard selection.
I’m not trying to scare Cavs fans into thinking that Irving will be a bust. Some of these guys were really really good. I think it’s a common perception (including mine) that the #1 overall pick has to be an MVP-caliber player and championship driving force, like LeBron or Derrick Rose. It will be wonderful if he achieves that kind of success. It rarely plays out that way. The hope is that it just doesn’t go the way of DaJuan Wagner or Michael Olowokandi or Kwame Brown.
The priority for the Cavaliers is surrounding him with the talent to enjoy success. Andre Miller may not have been as good as Mark Price, but his career in Cleveland would have lasted a lot longer had he played on a team like Price’s.
What do you guys think? Would you be happy if Irving’s career success compares to some of these past Cavs point guards when it’s all said and done?