Originally posted on Stepien Rules  |  Last updated 1/28/13
The Rajon Rondo ACL injury was a major disappointment on Sunday.  The NBA—especially its postseason—is a markedly better product with Rondo involved. When healthy, his unique skill-set has the ability to change the outcome of not only playoff games but also an entire series on a moment's notice. Something we are certainly well aware of as Cavaliers' fans. Kyrie Irving now has a chance to start in the 2013 NBA All-Star game as a result of the Rondo injury. While the way he could inevitably earn that start is the worst sort of way, the truth is that Irving deserved that start anyway. He is—without question—the best backcourt player in the Eastern Conference this season. Not simply the East's best point guard. Irving is having a better season than Deron Williams, Jrue Holiday, Monta Ellis along with Rondo prior to the tragic injury. Additionally, Irving has also out-played J.R. Smith, Paul George, Paul Pierce, Brandon Jennings and Dwyane Wade. On a game's final possession, go ahead and give Wade the basketball like the Heat did yesterday. I'll go with this guy. [youtube]5XcQmOQO78Q[/youtube] In terms of PER, Irving is the top-rated point guard in the Eastern Conference. Slotted third overall at his position, only Western Conference PG's Chris Paul and Tony Parker have a better number than Irving's 22.93 through Sunday. The only backcourt player with a better PER than Irving in the Eastern Conference right now is Wade. While scoring less points than Irving and dishing out less assists, Wade's PER is currently fourth-best in the East overall while Irving's ranks fifth. At 24.4 points per night, to go along with 5.6 assists, Irving is also the top backcourt scorer in the Eastern Conference, too, while ranking sixth in the NBA overall in scoring.  Only two players are averaging more points than Irving in the East and neither are guards. To one degree or another, I'm sure you were relatively aware of all that. What might be buried in the Irving-Is-A-20-Year-Old-All-Star-Who-Hits-Thirty-Foot-Game-Winners-Like-Layups-Headline, though, is what he's done since being snubbed by the fans as an Eastern Conference All-Star starter initially. Following that announcement on January 17, Irving has averaged 31.3 points in his last four games on 55.2 percent shooting from the field. The Cavaliers have won three of those last four games, and are riding a three-game winning streak into their matchup with the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. Irving has led his Cavaliers to two wins over teams who would be in the playoffs if the season ended today in that stretch. If he can do the impossible on Tuesday, and upset the fifth-best team in the Western Conference, Irving would find himself on the first four-game winning streak of his career. By this time next year, he'll also find himself starting on the Eastern Conference All-Star team, too. A decade-long run that might begin this season in Houston. 
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