Kyrie Irving is one of the best shot-creating guards in the NBA, and when the Brooklyn Nets acquired James Harden, it felt like Irving would be the most to suffer.
Irving and Harden both being ball-dominant guards, it could cause issues in deciding who runs the offense.
Irving, however, is having his best statistical season, and that is primarily because of Harden.
Irving has always been listed as a point guard but has never really played like a true point guard. It has always seemed like he was more of a combo guard, never having a past first mindset. Irving is one of the best shot-creators in the league, but a lot of that is how easy Irving can create for himself, which pulls in defenders, opening cutting lanes for others. He is never amounting the league leaders in assist like you would expect from a point guard of Irving’s quality, only averaging 5.7 assists for his entire career.
On the other hand, Harden has become one of the best passers in the NBA over the last few seasons, leading the NBA in assists in the 2016-2017 season with 11.2 assists per game. Like Irving, an opposing defense needs to pay very close attention to Harden as he creates shots for himself, pulling in defenders to make opportunities for his teammates. Harden has been one of the best in the NBA at driving into the paint to draw defenders in, only to pass the ball to an open player.
Harden has been able to take the burden of running the offense off Irving’s shoulder, and Irving has blossomed with this new freedom. Irving has fully leaned into becoming the offensive juggernaut that the NBA has only seen glimpses of.
Irving is averaging 27.6 points per game, shooting 53% from the field, 41% from three-point land, and a true shooting percentage of 64%. All of those stats are career highs for Irving, except for the three-point shooting.
Harden has helped unlock something within Irving’s offense that Irving has only showed glimpses of. Irving has been able to find spaces within the opposing team’s defense to get wide-open shots by his off-ball movement, and by playing with two other great scorers, there is always space. When the ball eventually finds Irving and decides to go into an isolation play, there is almost no way to stop him. He will either pull up from three, cross you up and take a midrange shot, or dribble around you to get to the paint to make an easy layup because the help defense can’t come, in case he passes it out.
Irving has been dominating at every level of offense, and his offense has expanded to new heights.
Kyrie Irving said a few days ago, he and James Harden made a decision: "I just looked at him and said, 'You're the point guard, and I'm going to play shooting guard. That's it."
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) February 14, 2021
Irving has made it clear that he is taking the ball out of his hands and giving it to Harden. Irving went as far as to say that he is no longer playing as the point guard and has transitioned to shooting guard.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) February 14, 2021
The win against the Golden State Warriors showed just how dangerous this could be. Irving led the team with 23 points shooting 59%, dominating at every level of the offense showing an ability to get to the rim and make easy and difficult jumpers.
Featured Image: New York Times/ Willens/Associated Press