Originally posted on Waiting For Next Year  |  Last updated 10/3/12

In his latest edition of player profiles for the 2012-13 NBA season, ESPN’s resident statnik John Hollinger took on the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Amidst all of the number crunching and prognosticating (a must-read for you number types), Hollinger had the following to say about point guard Kyrie Irving.

I’m still big on the Irving bandwagon. Who wouldn’t be after he ranked fifth among point guards in PER as a 19-year-old rookie?

But I’ll say this: When they’re replacing you with Ramon Sessions for defensive purposes, that might be a sign you have work to do. As good as Irving was on offense, he was a horrifying, flaming train wreck on defense. Synergy rated him the worst defensive player in the league with at least 300 plays defended, opposing point guards ripped him for a 19.0 PER according to 82games.com, and the Cavs gave up 5.0 points per 100 possessions more with him on the court — even though his usual replacement, Sessions, was himself among the league’s most flammable point guards.

Irving is so young and skilled that one presumes he’ll make strong progress, especially after jumping into the NBA after just a handful of college games. Too often he just didn’t know what to do or where he was supposed to be, and that’s all stuff he’ll learn.

Meanwhile, he’s a breathtaking offensive talent with an airtight handle and deep shooting ability. Irving made 39.9 percent of his triples as a rookie and shot 60.4 percent at the basket, a nice combo that sums up his inside-outside threat. He also shot 87.2 percent from the line, which is amazing for a teenage rookie.

The one concern is that he played more as a scorer than as a passer, ranking only 58th among point guards in assist rate and 59th in pure point rating. Granted, there weren’t a lot of options, but to reach superstardom he’ll need to be a better distributor and play less as an undersized 2.

With all that said … if he’s this good at 19, I shudder to think what he’ll be at 25.

Hollinger predicts that the Cavaliers’ starting five will be Irving joining rookie Dion Waiters, recently re-signed Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao.  Hollinger predicts that Irving will put up 26.9 points and 7.3 assists per contest with a PER of 23.1, representing a nice increase off of his Rookie of the Year campaign. Interestingly enough, he pegs Thompson with an average of 16 point and 10.5 rebounds a game, just north of the target placed upon him by head coach Byron Scott.

[Related: Daniel Gibson has Officially Become a Man]

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