There were high expectations for Kyrie Irving when Celtics GM Danny Ainge decided to trade away two of the best players on the Boston Celtics’ roster last season along with other pieces, including the prized 2018 unprotected Brooklyn Nets’ pick, to get him. Early on in the season, Irving struggled to score efficiently, leading to fans begin having concerns about the trade. Now, 28 games into the regular season, Irving is beginning to become comfortable within the Celtics’ offense. After some early struggles with efficiency, he has turned a corner and is beginning to materialize into the player we’ve been accustomed to seeing.
Like we’ve seen in the past, it often takes some time for players to get comfortable with their role on a new team. That was especially the case with Irving, who went from being the second scoring option behind LeBron James to, becoming the face of a franchise. He had experience being the face of a franchise before James decided to return to the Cavaliers, but he is in a much different situation now. Instead of being the top scoring option on a losing team, Irving is now the focal point of the offense on a Celtics team that has high hopes to make another deep playoff run. With these high expectations, it is often difficult for players to perform at a high level when learning to play with a new group of teammates. Irving has handled these challenges well thus far, leaving the Celtics at the top of the Eastern Conference over his former team.
Averaging 23.7 points per game, Irving has continued to excel at scoring; something he’s had success with throughout his whole career. Even more impressive, Irving has made 49% of his field goals, which is the highest percentage of his career. Although it is a small sample size, Irving has improved his field goal percentage over the course of the season, and is beginning to improve his three point percentage as well (39%). Along with this, he has proven his importance on the offensive end. With Irving on the court, the Celtics are a much better team offensively as the team has an offensive rating of 111.3 compared to a rating of 104.4 when he’s off the court. He is averaging less assists per game this season (4.8), but with players like Al Horford and Marcus Smart distributing the ball, Irving has not been needed to be the team’s main facilitator. The Celtics’ offense is full of willing passers, which has allowed Irving to focus more heavily on what he does best: scoring. Despite his interest in working towards becoming a more complete player, the Celtics surprisingly have not needed to rely on him to set up teammates. However, he has worked towards becoming a better defender; an area he has received a lot of criticism for.
Following some struggles defensively throughout his career with the Cavaliers, Irving has become a much better defender under Brad Steven’s coaching. He is not a lock-down defender by any means, but has improved his perimeter defense this season. He still has plenty of work to do defensively, but will has plenty of time to develop into a dependable defender. A lot of people forget he is still only 25 years old, and has yet to reach his prime. Regardless, Irving’s presence on the defensive end is improving, and will prove to be vital to the team come playoff team. The team was able to still have success last season despite Isaiah Thomas‘s defensive struggles, so Irving’s improvement on defense this year will be valued as he continues to get comfortable with his role on the Celtics.
Irving has put together a solid season offensively this season, and will continue to do so. He has become a much more efficient scorer, and will only get more comfortable with his teammates. That could help improve his assist numbers, but as of now, the Celtics are still in good position to have success on offense. As the top seed in the Eastern Conference, Irving has shown his value to the Celtics, and will continue to do so as the season progresses.
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