Found January 13, 2012 on Waiting For Next Year:

Within the realm of professional sports, we tend to fall into the trap of Next. We have long searched for The Next Michael Jordan, be he Kobe Bryant, LeBron James or Player to Be Named Later.  Same can be said for Dirk Nowitzki, largely credited with taking dynamite to the floodgates of foreign-born NBA combatants. Who is the next European player with flowing blonde hair who can tower over most of his competition yet provide a wrist-flick that could be featured in The Louvre?

At each year’s end, we create lists of what out versus what’s in and publish magazines where the young and spry don sashes which declare them conqueror of all things future.

But when the upper echelon is not enough of a shoes-to-be-filled narrative, the newspaper ink cascades on down upon the rest of the league. Even in instances where said comparisons would be good enough to potentially crack an All-Star roster let alone the Hall of Fame, we attempt to categorize players of similar position or skill set, measurables or intangibles, coming to all-to-premature conclusions that New Player of Choice is most comparable to Arbitrary Older Player.

When Kyrie Irving was being considered for the top overall selection in the 2011 NBA Draft, we demanded that the Duke point guard be compared to a player who had already walked the walk; we must know exactly who and what we are using this first-overall pick on, after all.  Irving drew comparisons to Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul due to being the best point guard in his class as well as being one who undoubtedly makes his teammates better, but does so without All-World speed or athleticism instead relying on the ever-important Basketball IQ.

Then came the John Wall comparisons. If merely rooted in draft position and one-and-done collegiate careers, this juxtaposition appears fair. At least until one compares 40-yard dash time and introductory flexed-arm dances (advantage, Wall), efficiency, decision-making, ball handling and shooting (advantage, Irving).

When we posted the video of the Cavaliers’ first-overall pick whisping through the lane as if a teenager was controlling him in a game of NBA 2K12, feverishly tapping the spin button, the comments immediately turned into who Irving most emulated. It was Derrick Rose – also a first-overall, one-and-done selection, then it was Allen Iverson and Chris Paul. And, with a bit of a way-back machine-like twist, it was Pistons great Isiah Thomas.

Where Rose can drive to the lane as if he’s perpetually fitted with shoulder pads, Irving does not possess such strength at this stage. Also, where Rose amassed 16 three-point field goals in each of his first two seasons, shooting at what was a 25 percent clip from long-range, Irving already has 10 made threes and is hitting 37 percent of his attempts. Irving’s effective field goal percentage through his first 10 contests is sitting at a comfortable .507. Rose’s MVP season provided his career-best effective field goal mark of .500.

Iverson’s game was largely predicated on reckless abandon and complete domination of the ball. Thomas’s hay day assist totals are presently demolishing what Irving has compiled thus far, but the respective supporting casts could not be more different. Paul continues to be one of the best backcourt defenders in the game where Irving tends to lean into screens instead of getting through them, and does not exactly have Zeke or Paul’s nose for the passing lanes just yet.

Prior to Thursday night’s contest, Stepien Rules’ Brendan provided comparisons to Paul while providing even more Hall-of-Fame calibur names in Steve Nash, a two-time MVP, and John Stockton, the game’s career leader in assists – two men whose respective games are rooted largely in fundamentals, efficiency and All-Creation power forwards.

In said contest, Irving matched up against Nash in a matchup the rookie would later call “fun” and “a little surreal.”  Irving not only provided the waiting world with a career high in scoring, rattling off 12-straight points at one point in the second quarter, but led his team to a victory on the road while adding yet another highlight drive to his resume – this time, at the expense of Suns center Marcin Gortat who Irving had so off balance he looked as if he was infused with a local distillery’s finest.

After watching Irving take on one of his idols, and thinking back to the abuse of Al Jefferson as well as the way he broke out a cross-over move that juked not one but three different Charlotte Bobcats en route to an and-one a handful of games earlier, the epiphany hit. 

Irving possesses the ability to get down the floor with underestimated speed, showing the ability to control his acceleration and deceleration at an ever-improving rate.  His hands, while the media and league fans want to fawn over the emergence of Ricky Rubio, are some of the best a Cleveland backcourt has seen in nearly a decade as he dribbles through traffic and finds teammates through the slightest of windows. His shot selection, while occasionally emulating that of a rookie, could be classified best as opportune; he utilizes the glass with his mid-range jumper, driving to the lane more often than not, but taking three-point field goals when left open. His defense still leaves a little to be desired, but he has a head coach who has had the chance to mold players like Paul as well as Jason Kidd (who mysteriously doesn’t get his name lofted into the Next discussion). While not as reckless as some of his predecessors, Irving already shows top-flight competitiveness and confidence. He runs Mikan Drills with his dad, helping improve his ability to not only use both of his hands, but provide just the right spin on lay-up attempts when guarded by men of considerably larger stature.

Irving is a 19-year old kid tasked with placing a franchise on his still-developing shoulders.  His game, despite being modeled after countless idols, is his own. Speed won’t be tought; he won’t sprout to 6-foot-5 or be outfitted with a Blake Griffin-like being any time soon. 

Kyrie Irving is not the next Paul or Rose. He’s not the next Iverson, Zeke or Wall. He’s not even the next Nash or Stockton or Kidd.

Kyrie Irving is The Next Kyrie Irving. And this may wind up being the best news of all.

THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Kyrie Irving is taking over for the Cleveland Cavaliers

19-year old point guard Kyrie Irving has locked down the starting job for the Cavaliers and he is playing really well.  He has played in 9 games (all starts) for the Cavs so far this year and he is averaging 26.8 minutes, 15.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game.  At some point the Cavs will likely start giving Irving more minutes if he continues to excel.  20-year old...

Irving leads Cavaliers past Suns

Prize rookie Kyrie Irving scored a season-high 26 points and Antawn Jamison matched his season high with 23, helping the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Phoenix Suns 101-90 on Thursday night. Irving, who played only 11 games at Duke before being drafted first overall, topped his previous high of 21. Anderson Varejeo contributed 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers. Steve Nash led six Suns...

The Kyrie Irving Era Keeps Looking Promising, As Cavs Beat Suns

Kyrie Irving has range. He's not a guy who looks to do just one or two things well on the basketball floor, he plays the whole entire game from the point guard position. He hit from all angles last night too in just his tenth NBA game ever. He pulled up on a dime[s] and connected from three point territory twice, he finished in traffic up at the rim on multiple trips, caught...

Irving scores career-high 26, Cavs defeat Suns

Prize rookie Kyrie Irving scored a season-high 26 points and Antawn Jamison matched his season high with 23, helping the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Phoenix Suns 101-90 on Thursday night.

Irving leads Cavaliers past Suns, 101-90

Prize rookie Kyrie Irving scored a season-high 26 points and Antawn Jamison matched his season high with 23, helping the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Phoenix Suns 101-90 on Thursday night.

Cleveland Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving making moves on the NBA

With each game it seems Irving is doing more and more for the offensively-challenged Cavaliers.

Irving leads Cavaliers past Suns, 101-90

Prize rookie Kyrie Irving scored a season-high 26 points and Antawn Jamison matched his season high with 23, helping the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Phoenix Suns 101-90 on Thursday night.

Cleveland Cavaliers (4-5) at Phoenix Suns (4-5), 9 p.m. (ET)

Rookie Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers resume a seven-game road trip tonight against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center.

Preview: Suns host Cavaliers

Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns have been much different on the road than at home. Kyrie Irving continues to impress regardless of where he's playing. Arguably the best point guard of the past decade takes on his possible heir apparent for the first time Thursday night when Nash and the Suns host Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Phoenix (4-5) is coming off another poor...

Baseline to Baseline recaps: it’s a free throw-a-palooza

What you missed while trying to beat up a police officer with a stuffed monkey…. Cavaliers 101, Suns 90: Kyrie Irving had his best game ever matched up against Steve Nash. Our own Brett Pollakoff broke it down as our game of the night. Magic 117, Warriors 109: Mark Jackson decided the best strategy was…

Cavaliers-Suns Preview

Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns have been much different on the road than at home. Kyrie Irving continues to impress regardless of where he's playing. Arguably the best point guard of the past decade takes on his possible heir apparent for the first time Thursday night when Nash and the Suns host Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Phoenix (4-5) is coming off another poor...

Cavs Rally Falls Short in L.A.

The Wine and Gold's second unit cut a 19-point Lakers' lead to just three in the fourth quarter, but Kobe Bryant's 42-point performance was a touch too much as the Cavaliers fell, 97-92, on Friday night at the Staples Center. Kyrie Irving led Cleveland with 21 points.

Post Up: Dwight Night

by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad I had a whole introduction written out about how the NBA is a point guard-driven League (which I still believe, for the record). I even had a nice photo of Kyrie Irving picked out for the home page. And then Dwight Howard had to go and ruin it for me. I wanted to talk about how last night, we saw it all at the point guard spot—a matchup of the...
NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.