Kyrie Irving has reportedly been dominant in Team USA practices, so much so that he has now become a favorite to start over Derrick Rose and Stephen Curry at point guard for the team (though, there’s a good chance Curry and Irving both start). Given the cautious approach the team continues to take with Rose, starting Kyrie for at least some of the games makes a lot of sense. But it’s still surprising given the depth of talent at the positions and Irving’s recent relative struggles. I say relative because obviously Irving is a good player, but he’s far from dominant or elite. At least not yet.
Irving has battled health issues for most of his career and until now has been surrounded by a weak supporting cast, but there are still some alarming figures. Take his career assist percentage of 33.2%, a stat not affected by teammates or volume. That is far from the number you expect out of an elite point guard.
But Kyrie won’t have to really be a playmaker on Team USA. He’ll likely be on the court with Curry and/or James Harden, two players who do a better job than he of creating for others. Irving will be a scorer, a shooter, a guard who can athletically dominate the opposition. He may not be able to do that to the extent of a healthy Rose, but he’ll still be very difficult to handle on the perimeter.
With the changes the Cavs made this offseason and his apparent role as a starter on Team USA, Kyrie Irving’s time to make the push from promising guard to true superstar is now. It will be interesting to see what he can do.
Team USA kicks of FIBA play today against Finland at 3:30 ET. The game can be seen on ESPN.