In the NBA right now, point guards are certainly the topic of discussion when discussing a team’s success with the point guard. With the MVP talk heating up around Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook last week, and veteran Clipper Chris Paul still playing at a high level, where does Cleveland’s young star Kyrie Irving fit in the discussion?
Kyrie Irving vs. Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook has elevated his game since the All-Star break to the point where Oklahoma City is literally riding him into the post-season. The 26 year old point guard out of UCLA is having his best scoring season yet, averaging 27.5 points points while also having his best assisting season at 8.6 dimes a night. It is also hard to forget Westbrook’s 11 triple doubles this season as it is an incredible feat, especially without Kevin Durant playing much of this season. Westbrook is also an athletic monster, as he is one of the few point guards that can go coast to coast and finish at the rim with ease.
While Kyrie Irving is not as athletic as Westbrook and won’t dunk over somebody, some of his finishes at the rim are just as good, if not better.
Westbrook however is a much different player than both Stephen Curry and Chris Paul, as Curry is much more of a pure shooter and Paul is a pass first guard.
Kyrie Irving vs. Stephen Curry
That leads to the discussion of Stephen Curry. Curry has been nothing short of Golden State’s golden boy. Curry is having his best season shooting from three-point land this season, converting a ridiculous .438 percent from downtown. His shooting percentage from the floor in general for a point guard is certainly a feat, as he is converting .482 of all his shots from the floor while getting an average of two steals a game. Some NBA analysts have already established Curry as the best 3 point shooting point guard ever.
Irving’s best compliment to his layup game is his ability to score from virtually anywhere on the offensive side of the court. He is having the best shooting season from 3 in his career, converting .414 percent of his shots, while also shooting .467 percent from the floor overall. Not Stephen Curry numbers, but certainly enough to raise the question is he a better point guard than Curry? Its easy to argue that the combination of his pure shooting and ability to finish at the rim makes him a much more dangerous player than Stephen Curry. But his shooting, especially in the clutch, really is remarkable:
The game against San Antonio might be the highlight of the young star’s career so far. He was an unbelievable 7-7 from downtown hitting several clutch threes, but he was also able to take the basket to the rim against veteran big men Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter, and Boris Diaw. While Curry can be lights out from three, he struggles to score inside. Kyrie’s ability to score from inside is superior to Curry’s.
Kyrie Irving vs. Chris Paul
Los Angeles Clippers star Chris Paul has often been overlooked with the emergence of Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry as the MVP frontrunners, but Paul has been having the status quo amazing season that he has been having almost every year of his career. Paul is averaging a double-double every night scoring about 19.1 points a night while also dishing 10.2 dimes a night as well. Paul has emerged as the veteran leader on that Los Angeles Clippers squad, and with him at the helm they are always looking dangerous come playoff time.
Chris Paul is heralded as the best passer in the NBA and its hard to disagree. Watching the Clippers is different than watching any other team in the league simply because Paul’s passing gives their players a different dimension. It’s called Lob City for a reason ladies and gents. One thing that Kyrie Irving is able to do better than Chris Paul is drive to the basket and create a shot for himself and teammates thanks to the attention he attracks. Irving should evolve into a better passer in the next couple of years because of his ability to lose his defender and draw another defender towards him. Half of being a good passer in the NBA is court vision, and Chris Paul is the best in the business at that. Paul has been playing at a high level for a long time, so regular season games are much of the same for Paul.
Kyrie Irving is still a young, up and coming star in this league at just 23 years of age compared to Westbrook (age 26), Curry (age 27), and Paul (age 29). That is his biggest plus on all three of these point guards is time.
Curry, Westbrook and Paul are all playing at their peaks right now, so in 3-4 years it will be interesting to see where Kyrie is because he will more than likely be at the top of the point guard mountain.