Why Cavaliers' Irving is not yet an elite point guard; more mailbag
Last week I compiled a list of top point guards; Kyrie Irving was not among them
He has a ton of talent but hasn't shown ability to lead, compiling a 19-42 record
Also: Free agency preview; rookie breaks unwritten rule; Sixth Man candidates
Last week I compiled a list of the NBA's top point guards. There turned out to be nine of them, headed by Rajon Rondo, and your responses focused on one player from Cleveland who didn't make the list. So let's get straight to your questions (and suggestions for a medical remedy):
Wow, no Kyrie Irving on your list. You've got some explaining to do!! His D will come with time, when he adds more bulk, muscle and experience.
-- Brandon, Cleveland
Did you seriously rank Andre Miller and Jason Kidd over Kyrie Irving? Please tell me leaving Kyrie out was a grievous oversight and you'll issue a correction immediately.
-- Andrew, Silver Spring, Md.
Not to nitpick, but I noticed your list of top-tier point guards didn't include Kyrie Irving. Do you actually think Andre Miller and Jason Kidd are better than him? And if you do, when will you be getting your lobotomy?
-- Quinton, Canton, Ohio
Let's review my list, and then I'll try to explain why Irving does not (yet) belong with these accomplished players:
1. Rajon Rondo
2. Chris Paul
3. Tony Parker
4. Russell Westbrook
5. Deron Williams
6. Steve Nash
7. Jason Kidd
8. Andre Miller
Honorable mention: Derrick Rose (injured)
Irving will miss the next four weeks with a fractured finger, but he is going to be on this list sooner than later. Maybe he'll make it this spring or next season; maybe someday he'll be at the top.
I was at the Las Vegas practices last summer when Irving was tearing up the Olympic team, and I saw the highlights of him spinning and burning through the defense of the eventual gold medalists. Irving's talent is outrageous and undeniable and inspiring. However, as I tried to point out last week, a list of the best NBA point guards has to reflect qualities that transcend outright talent.
The whole point of my list was to define point guard as a position of leadership that should be held to the same ultimate standard as the MVP. A point guard should be held accountable for wins and losses. It's like being a quarterback in the NFL. Think about all of the highly talented young QBs who have been unable to fulfill their potential. They can make highlight plays, but they can't provide the necessary leadership to win games.
Am I saying Irving is the next Michael Vick? No, I'm not saying that. I think Irving is going to be a great player. But let's give him the time to prove it.
The nine point guards on my list are highly accomplished. They've achieved a lot for their teams over the years. They know how to exert their talent to help teammates win games, and they do it in different ways. One thing they all have in common is that they're winners.
In terms of physical talent and his ability to beat his man off the dribble and create at the basket, Irving ranks among the best in the NBA. If I were rating Irving's position based solely on his highlights, then I could rate him ahead of Kidd and Miller after the lobotomy. Anybody can see how gifted Irving is. It couldn't be more obvious.
But he's also 20. He has played 61 NBA games. His team is 19-42 in those games. He has never experienced the playoffs. He has a career assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.65 to 1.
Let's be fair: Those turnover numbers (3.3 per game) and his team's losing record don't make him a bad player. Irving is not the reason the Cavaliers are 2-8 this year. Just the opposite: He gives them hope of winning every night in spite of his young teammates as the Cavaliers patiently rebuild their roster.
To Brandon, Andrew, Quinton and everyone else who believes Irving has already earned his place among the best point guards in the NBA, I think the difference between your opinions and mine is that we're discussing two different lists. You are rating the position by talent. I am rating point guards by their achievements on behalf of their teams, which is the ultimate standard for any quarterback who has earned the opportunity to lead his franchise.
I love Irving's talent, but we all know that talent isn't everything. People in Cleveland know this better than anybody.
For years we heard talk out of Cleveland that young LeBron James was the best player in the NBA. That rating was premature. LeBron won two MVP awards in Cleveland during the regular season, but he hadn't earned the right to be rated ahead of a champion like Kobe Bryant.
A lot of people in Cleveland changed their view of LeBron when he moved to Miami. All of a sudden they were accusing him of being all-potential and no-substance. He hadn't lived up to his talent, they said, because he hadn't delivered a championship for his team.