Jan 28, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) celebrates after scoring 55 points in the Cavaliers
MVP: Kyrie Irving
That’s right, Kyrie Irving. The way that Irving has improved his game from his All-Star season last year deserves massive praise. His defensive effort and intensity have done a complete 180 from his first three seasons. With the help and mentoring of LeBron, Kyrie has been shutting down point guards all season. During the 12 game winning streak, here are the statistics of the top point guards Kyrie has faced:
During that span, Irving has held those star point guards to 26% shooting, and holding each one below their season averages. On top of that, he had a two-game spurt of 93 points, with one of those being a 55 point massacre with 11 3-pointers in a win over the Blazers.
This is what LeBron envisioned when he signed up to have Kyrie as his sidekick. Offensively, his field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage has risen. Irving has flourished with LeBron on the bench, and he’s using the sidekick role to be one of the deadliest spot-up shooters with LeBron facilitating.
Feb 11, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt reacts in the second quarter against the Miami Heat at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Irving is going to his third All Star game in four seasons. He’s also participating in his second 3-point Shooting Challenge. Cavs Country expected Kyrie to become one of the league’s top point guards with LeBron, but not this fast. He is defending at a high level, he is playing with defensive effort, while growing more and more consistent as the season continues.
(Honorable Mention: LeBron James – 2nd in NBA in scoring (25.8), 31-14 Record w/ James)
Unsung Hero: David Blatt
Coming into the season, the biggest question with this team didn’t involve the “Big 3”, or the bench. The biggest question mark was rookie head coach David Blatt. The International coaching legend was set to begin his rookie campaign as the General of an NBA franchise led by Kyrie Irving. Obviously, things changed when LeBron decided to come home while bringing in Kevin Love. In a matter of days, the pressure put on Blatt’s shoulders became immense. What was thought to be a slow process involving a growing team turned into championship-or-bust talk.
As the season began, questions about whether Blatt would be able to take control of the locker room surfaced. Blatt was new the NBA scene and he didn’t exactly have roster of proven winners, with only one of his starters (James) having any playoff experience, while Love and Irving hadn’t tasted postseason play.
A slow start led to a story about Blatt losing the locker room and players anonymously calling for him to be fired. David Griffin had to come out and publicly call for support for Blatt, and after a small losing streak, it appears the players have bought into Blatt and his coaching staff. Having won 14 of 16 will make anyone look like a genius, but Blatt’s learned to make adjustments, involving cutting his rotation to eight players, and is learning other tricks needed to win in the NBA.
LeBron’s leadership on and off the court combined with the defensive effort have shown that the players are coming around.
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This would be immense pressure placed on any coach, let alone someone coaching in the NBA for the first time. After a rocky start, Blatt is starting to show that he can handle the pressure. The biggest test will come during playoff time.
(Honorable Mention: Timofey Mozgov – 10.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 14-4 record since trade)
Biggest Disappointment – Kevin Love
Where to begin… Let’s start with this – Love hasn’t been terrible. It was known coming in that he would have to make major adjustments to his game to get accustomed to his role. But so far, he appears lost. The Cavaliers do an amazing job at getting Love involved in the first quarter. He ranks near the top of the league in first-quarter scoring and shot attempts, but that number drops by each quarter.
Offensively, he seems to drift around the 3-point line more and more as the game goes on, and defensively, he is what you expect him to be – average.
While his outlet passes from the opposite basket are things of beauty, he has yet to really settle in. This may be unfair to him, because it took Chris Bosh almost two seasons to get comfortable playing with James. Again, Love hasn’t been terrible, but watching each game you can tell that he just isn’t comfortable. There is still plenty of time for the chemistry to improve, and come playoff time he could start to get back to looking like the All Star big man we know he can be. Until then, you can say that he’s been a disappointment.
(Honorable Mention: The bench – 28ppg. Cut to 8 man rotation, Miller/Jones/Marion reduced minutes)
Who would be your Cavs MVP?