Every player in the race for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award deserves to belong in that discussion. However, despite lighting up box scores on a nightly basis on historically high-efficient levels, Kyrie Irving is not being talked about enough as a candidate to come away with that prestigious award.
Irving is averaging 27.4 points, 5.8 assists, 4.7 rebounds per game while shooting 51.7 percent from the field, including a 40.7 percent mark from three and 90.4 percent from the foul line, per basketball reference. The only players to put up 25+ points per game on a 50/40/90 shooting split for an entire season are Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Larry Bird.
There are so many great basketball players to have ever stepped on an NBA hardwood. This type of performance has only been done four times in the sport’s history and it speaks volumes to how tough it is to sustain that level of greatness throughout a season.
Recency bias suggests James Harden should be entering the MVP conversation because Harden stepped up as the lead man in Durant’s absence to help the Nets take down the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, and the Phoenix Suns. While Harden deserves a spot in that conversation, we can’t ignore the shooting efficiency we’ve seen from Irving this season.
It’s tough to ignore that half of Irving’s shot attempts come when defenders are between zero to four feet of him, as the crafty guard consistently finds a way to get the ball through the net anyway, as he gets those shot attempts to go in 51.5 percent of the time.
The 6-foot-2 guard also gets 61.3 percent of his overall shot attempts within five feet of the rim to go down. Don’t forget Irving has to deal with a lot of 7-foot athletes, and there is absolutely no way he would be able to post them up or use his frame to beat those defenders.
Instead, he finds the right angles to get his shots up or beat them off the dribble finding success in tight spaces. Joel Embiid, who has about a foot on Irving, can use his size and strength to score inside and is only having moderately more success than Irving in that area.
In clutch situations, the Nets have identified Irving as their closer, as he is averaging more than 10 percent than Durant or Harden of the team’s field goal attempts in those situations. Irving with that role shows that head coach Steve Nash and his teammates trust him to get a bucket with the ball in his hands in the most critical moments of the game. One particular example of Irving putting the team on his back was on February 2nd at the Barclays Center, as the Nets were down by three to the Clippers with a little under six minutes left in the game. It was Irving who led the Nets on an 8-0 run that put them up by five with a little over a minute left.
Irving is not going to make an All-Defensive Team any time soon. However, if you look into some of the defensive assignments, he was outstanding at either shutting guys down or limiting their damage from the field. For example, Irving held Paul George to 0-of-5 shooting while guarding him in the Nets’ first matchup against the Clippers. In the Nets’ most recent matchup against the Washington Wizards, a game in which he declared he couldn’t guard a stick, he was the only player who could contain Russell Westbrook, as Irving defended the former MVP for a little over four minutes of the game. Westbrook went 3-6 from the field when facing Irving. Still, Westbrook exploited other weaknesses in Brooklyn’s defensive gameplan, which allowed him to put up 41 points in that game. If it wasn’t for Irving stepping up defensively on Westbrook, then Washington could’ve smoothly run away with that game.
Irving took responsibility for the loss on himself and could’ve pointed fingers at his other teammates for not holding up their end of the bargain. You want to see your leader hold himself accountable. If you listen to some of his comments in interviews this season, Irving has been consistent about accountability, gratitude, putting the team over himself, not getting complacent about success, and not getting too upset if things go wrong. Everything Irving has been doing out there on and off the court echoes that sentiment.
Irving has been an absolute delight to watch on the court all season long. He’s backing up the narrative that he’s an artist out there, as he’s mercilessly breaking ankles left and right, shifting gears at the right time to get defenders off-balance to either hit the pull-up jumper or take advantage of the open lane afforded to him. It’s hard to replicate that in a game of NBA 2K!
In the eyes of MVP voters, a stain on Irving’s candidacy might be that he missed 10 of the Nets’ 33 games this season. In contrast, most other players in the MVP conversation have either played in every game this season or close to all of them. While that certainly matters when determining the award winner, that shouldn’t necessarily keep a deserving candidate out of the race entirely unless that player missed closer to half of their team’s games or more. There is still plenty of time for Irving to appear in closer to 80-90 percent of his team’s games.
It’s unlikely that Irving will be named the MVP of the league at season’s end, especially when he’s on a team with two other MVP candidates. Still, he’s deserving to be mentioned more in the conversation when you consider he’s putting up historic numbers and is leading his team to meaningful wins. Irving, though, would almost certainly prefer a chance at another ring over an MVP Award, which ultimately matters more since that’s a team accomplishment.
Is The Brooklyn Nets’ Offense The New High Powered defense? by Chris Allen
They say offense wins games and defense wins championships, but there’s a new Brooklyn Nets roster that might change this ancient philosophy in sports. The Nets are sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference.
I’ve been watching the revitalized Nets with James Harden’s addition in one of the biggest blockbuster trades this season. With the addition of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and now Harden, the Brooklyn Nets arguably have three of the top 7 most unguardable players in the league. This causes a nightmare for defenses. After all, you can’t double-team anybody because you’re going to leave another prolific scorer open. Blake Griffin’s addition to the roster will make it challenging for defenses to have a scheme other than one on one.
With their lineup’s construction, no one would be surprised if they got a bucket on every offensive possession. It must be demoralizing from a defensive standpoint to try to do your best to contest a layup from Irving as he can put your best defender on skates. Or try and put an undersized defender on 7’0 Durant because your bigs don’t have the quickness and agility to stay with him. Last but not least, you have to try not to foul Harden, who recently hacked the officiating rule perfecting his step-back three.
With the focus on those three, how are the rest of your team not subject to being a poster prop for the year’s dunk with DeAndre Jordan and Griffin.
From a sport psychology standpoint, you can’t go an entire fourth quarter in a close competitive game when every possession they do some lack of a better term “2K Hall of Fame Shit” without losing your competitive edge. Essentially their offense is so good that it puts pressure on the opposition to defend them on the defensive side and attempt to keep up with them on the offensive side, adding more stress to each player on the opposite team to make a play to stay in the game. This allows the Nets to be essentially mediocre on defense, and if they get a stop or create turnovers, you not only lost possession, but you put the ball back into their hands which is what you don’t want to do late in the 4th quarter.
At this point, the only thing that can stop the Nets is a COVID protocol or injury. If the Nets stay healthy and work together as a team, it’ll be a tough challenge for anybody in the West, let alone in the East, to take down such an offense of powerhouse. With Steve Nash and Mike D’Antoni on the sidelines just inflating the offense, even more, this team is dangerous.
Irving can drop 40 on any night; Harden can get as many four-point plays as he wants, and Durant receives the green light whenever he touches the ball. Even if they miss their shots, they still have pretty solid rebounders in Nicolas Claxton, Jordan, and Griffin to reset the offense.
Let’s not forget that they still have one of the best three-point shooters in the league, Joe Harris, waiting on defenders to make a mistake the man almost can’t miss. If the Nets make it to the NBA finals, they could threaten the Los Angeles Lakers’ chances of repeating. Then again, I guess there’s only one way to determine if the offense can win you a championship.
Five Players In The NBA That Can Finish Their Careers With Greater On-Court Legacies Than LeBron James by @ReelTPJ
Five players in the league can finish their careers with more extraordinary court legacies than LeBron James. GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO, Zion Williamson, Luka Dončić, Ja Morant, and LaMelo Ball. Here’s why:
GOAT for GOAT LeBron can challenge any GOAT from Bill Russell, a pioneer amongst pioneers and leaders amongst leaders. To a GOAT such as Wilt Chamberlain, who stacked the numbers so high, not even James Harden iso’s in a Mike D’Antoni system could catch. To a GOAT such as Michael Jordan, the GOAT OF MY GOATS GOATS. It’s Mike. I’m from Chicago.
Off-the-court legacy, LeBron is tied with Jordan. Jordan is 50+ doing all this. LeBron is still in his 30s. LeBron’s done so much that I think it would be unfair to compare legacies. Michael Jordan is the precursor. So it’s hard to say LeBron can ever be better than him to those that love Mike. LeBron loves Mike.— That futuristic artificial intelligence Virtual Reality game of LeBron vs. MJ will be WILD in 2030.
LeBron’s current challengers, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, can’t catch him. Period. They’re old. They teamed up to beat bro. PLUS health. — Steph is my guy. He’s the only unanimous MVP and probably will be until Zion wins his first ring in 2025.
After Steph, THERE IS nobody good enough heading into their prime to challenge Bron’s legacy ON THE COURT. This era, 2015-2035, will also be the age of technology and the “stat” era. 50 years from now, Bron will be the first of a new generation of GOATS. He’ll be top 5 in every statistical category. Before the True Shooting percentage nerds took over the game, LeBron accumulated a large part of those numbers before the stat era began.
Also, this is the dawn of a new century. Basketball has been around for 130 years at this point. Really in its most proper form since 1970.
So let’s get to why these guys can challenge LeBron’s legacy.
Giannis is a 2X MVP and a DPOY through 8 seasons in the NBA. His numbers are still on par with last year’s. He continues to shine. BIGGEST QUESTION IS…… CAN HE WIN? I’m not sure. I hope he can. I think Giannis can win 5-7 rings if paired with the right guard. Imagine Ja and GIANNIS! OMG OMG OMG! One can dream, right? Still, Giannis has GOAT potential. He has everything you want in a player; he’s young, built like a horse (I’ve talked to him in person postgame), and he’s building his game out.
He’s a better player than LeBron was at this age. His offensive bag isn’t as big as LeBron, but LeBron isn’t 6’11 and built like Giannis.
ATHLETIC FREAK OF NATURE. LOOK AT THESE STATS OVER THE LAST 9 GAMES!
THIS MAN IS 20 YEARS OLD. This man’s numbers vs. LeBron’s are INSANE! Look at this:
These numbers are insane. Yes, this is an offensive generation, but who’s bodying Zion? Who’s FIGHTING ZION? In what era? WHO?
He made Tristan Thompson look like a child. SMH. And Thompson is a BIG dude who I’ve very rarely seen get abused like that. His play is Shaq-like. Plus, he’s averaging 26 points on 16 shots per game—less than Anthony Edwards. Edwards is averaging 16.8, and Zion’s played 21 games MORE than Anthony. TWENTY-ONE GAMES MORE!
He’s MY SON. LUKKKKKKKKKAAAAAAAAAA! If he can win 3-4 rings, I think he can challenge LeBron’s legacy. He’ll have so many stats behind him. Currently, I think he has to develop his defensive game and learn to shoot and finish games better.
Ja is the biggest X-Factor in the NBA. BUT he won’t be if he stays with the Memphis Grizzlies. Request a trade and LEAVE JA. LEAVE! No one wants to play for the Grizzlies.
I told all of you, LeBron, and Kobe all in one. He’s only 19 years old! I think he has considerable potential and age for age. It’s a conversation, statistically!
So that’s the list! All legit arguments.
MY BAD: And I know I use to say Ben Simmons could challenge LeBron; he doesn’t have an offensive skillset when it comes to scoring. You have to do everything Bron does plus score to challenge him.
ALL STATS FROM BASKETBALL REFERENCE.
The Bulls Got Better by Pavy
Suppose you follow me on Twitter; the war against the Chicago Bulls Twitter is well documented. Yes, I’m from Chicago, but I enjoy being right more than supporting my hometown teams. My main riff started in the Jim Boylen era when Bulls fans told me he was a God-awful coach. My whole point was that even though he wasn’t the best coach, he wasn’t as bad as people think. The talent on the roster just wasn’t up to where it should’ve been, and it didn’t matter who was coaching. That team wasn’t that good.
This season there has been a slight improvement. Primarily because of the play of Zach LaVine. He’s averaging 28.1 points this season, but what is most impressive is his percentages. He’s shooting 52% from the field while shooting 43% from a distance. Hitting the shots that he shoots, which usually have a substantial degree of difficulty, is INSANE efficiency. But then the trade deadline happened, and the Bulls did something that we rarely as an organization see them do. MAKE TRADES.
When I woke up Thursday morning, the group chat was already in shambles. It was at least 20 messages, and I was confused. Then I logged on Twitter to find out Nikola Vučević and Daniel Theis were the Bulls’ newest members. Both players make this team much better than when I laid my head down for some sleep. For one, they have two legitimate All-Stars. Something the Bulls haven’t had since I was 21. For context, I’ll be 30 in less than two months. Also, it shows the team, and most importantly, the fan base, they’re dedicated to winning. No, this move probably won’t put them in the Finals. They still might be a first-round exit, but at least it’s something to be excited about.
It’s been a long road for Bulls fans throughout the Gar Forman and John Paxson era. I honestly believe Derrick Rose getting hurt was the worst thing that could’ve happened, not precisely the roster decision they made. But regardless, it looks like the new regime has a vision, and they aren’t scared to take shots. The Bulls historically don’t trade that often. Especially not mid-season. The most significant mid-season acquisitions I can remember is probably Jalen Rose. All in all, I’m excited about Bulls fans and the city of Chicago to watch actual competitive basketball again.
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