If anyone wasn’t aware of Kyrie Irving’s awesomeness, they likely became aware during All-Star weekend. Irving has one of the most masterful handles in the league and teams with one of the silkiest jump-shots in the league (winner of the 2013 NBA three point contest). Irving has put together an offensive arsenal that despite being in its’ second NBA season is one of the most dangerous offensive players in the league.
But, despite the downpour of accolades heading his way, Irving’s offensive game isn’t as well rounded as one would think.
He’s a freak of nature in isolation situations, posting a PPP of 1.07 when attempting to score out of these play types according to Synergy Sports. This puts him 2nd among all qualifying players in the NBA.
And, it’s not as if Irving performs in a limited number of isolations, this is his most used play type, coming in at 29.9% of the time.
In this video, you can see that Irving isn’t afraid to take difficult shots, but he’s also very capable of hitting them. The first possession shows him hitting a contested jumper against one of the tougher defenders in the league in Avery Bradley. Then, he is able to blow by another difficult defender in Rajon Rondo and finish for the and-one. The video finishes up with a set of iso possessions against Jamaal Tinsley of the Utah Jazz. Irving is able to easily blow by him in the first clip, and then in the next clip Tinsley gives Irving a cushion, and Kyrie buries the three.
Kyrie likes to isolate, in what is essentially a 1-4 low set, and pull-up for three, especially for his famous game-winners. The unfortunate defender is left on an island and then Kyrie uses his quickness and handle to freeze his opponent for a pull-up.
But, Kyrie hasn’t learned all of the tricks of the trade just yet. His pick-and-roll game lacks severely comparatively. Per Synergy Sports, Irving puts up just 0.81 PPP when electing to try to score out of these play types, which is much below his overall of 0.98 and his previously mentioned isolation production.
There are different factors that play into why Kyrie is less productive in this play type. The first thing that is noticeable is how it affects the defenses that play him. Here, Kyrie turns the corner on the screen and finds that he has been given a cushion by the opposing big-man. This baits Kyrie into pulling up for the jumper, which is then contested by a much longer defender than the type of guys that usually guards Irving.
Next, we see another negative about going to pick-and-roll for Irving. It is easier to trap Irving and force the ball out of his hands in a pick-and-roll situation (though, it must be noted, that Kyrie is one of the best splitters of a double team in the NBA). Still forcing the ball out of Irving’s hands is not what the play is designed to do. Here, Kyrie is able to get the ball back, but gets chased to the sideline for a rushed off-balanced shot.
Pick-and-rolls are also an issue for Cleveland in that it allows defenses to key in on Irving. Here, New York lets Irving get to the rim on the transition pick-and-roll, but it’s not for lack of bodies trying to contain him in the paint. Irving misses this shot, and one would have to think it would be an even tougher look with Tyson Chandler looming in the paint as opposed to Kurt Thomas.
Lastly, the decision making for Irving appears to be more difficult. Irving turns the ball over 16.3% of the time in pick-and roll situations which is more than double the 8.1% he does so in isolation. Here, Irving waits too long to decide to kick out to his shooter and is has to make a difficult pass which finds its’ way out of bounds.
With this just being his second season, Irving will have plenty of time to develop his pick-and-roll game. And, as his teammates become better and he is more trusting of them, defenses will have a much harder time loading up to try and contain him. But for now, Irving still has notches to add to his offensive belt.