As many know by now, Danny Ainge made a big splash following the draft by acquiring Kryie Irving from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Mostly known as a player who complimented LeBron James with his elite scoring ability, Irving is now entering a situation where he will need to change his playing style. Head coach Brad Stevens understands Irving’s talented offensive game but will look to develop him into a better defender. On top of that, a willingness to become a better play-maker will ultimately help in developing Irving into a more complete player.
Throughout his tenure with the Cavaliers, Irving showed a unique ability to have success with isolation plays. This lead to him playing “hero ball” at times, but ultimately gave the team a much needed scoring presence to add to James’s distributing role on offense. During the 2016-2017 season, Irving finished tied as the No.1 isolation player in the league along with former Celtic Isaiah Thomas. However, that will likely change this season, as Irving will be asked to distribute more. As one of the more experienced players on the Celtics’ roster, Irving understands the importance of team chemistry playing on a championship team. Although Irving has shown a great ability to create his own shot, others will need to get involved in order to contribute to the Celtics’ success throughout the season.
After losing much of the team’s depth over the off-season, the Celtics will need to focus more on getting multiple players involved. Irving has had success in the past with isolation plays, but will need to start using plays in a system that thrives off of Stevens’ play-calling. It will be a transition for him to adapt to a new system, but he has the basketball IQ to learn the Celtics’ offense. This will require Irving to be more team-oriented; something that will prove to be vital to his growth if he decides to stay in Boston long-term.
Much like Thomas was during his tenure with the Celtics, Irving has struggled to perform defensively. During critical moments including the Finals, Irving has shown he’s capable of defending against top players like Stephen Curry, but has yet to show consistency on defense. In a system that takes pride in its defense, the Celtics will ask more out of him on the defensive end, which will help his cause in becoming an all-around player they can build around.
Irving will prove to be a solid pick-up for the Celtics short-term and potentially long-term, but will need to change his playing style to fully benefit the team. Irving has expressed his willingness to change his playing style in a new environment, which should help the transition. If he continues to improve off an already impressive career, Irving has potential to be one of the best players in the league if he becomes a better distributor and defender.