The Brooklyn Nets have assembled one of the best-constructed rosters in NBA history. Kevin Durant and James Harden are arguably two of the best offensive players in the league, but for some reason, Kyrie Irving is overlooked in this group.

Irving’s Amazing 2020-2021 Season

In the 2020-2021 season, Irving joined the 50-40-90 club, becoming only the ninth player to achieve such efficiency in NBA history. He also averaged 26.9 points, 6 assists, and 4.8 rebounds in 34.9 minutes per game. Irving did this despite the basic media conception that he, Durant, and Harden would not work.

Irving’s statics were almost identical before and after the arrival of Harden. If you want to look deeper into the stats, while Harden was going on his MVP stretch from February 2nd to March 23rd, Irving actually averaged 28.5 points per game to Harden’s 25.9. Harden did average more assists, but Irving’s scoring output cannot be overlooked during that time.

This idea that Irving was the odd man out was never accurate, possibly the opposite. Adding Harden had little to no effect on Irving’s stats.

Irving’s “New” Play Style

When Harden joined the team, the main thing that changed was that Irving was no longer the “point guard.” Irving has never been an elite facilitator, evident from his time with the Boston Celtics. Taking the primary play creating actions out of his hand makes sense. It might have made him a better player, and replacing it with Harden, an elite facilitator is a no-brainer.

The best years of Irving’s career have been when he played as a combo guard in Clevland Cavilers next to LeBron James. Irving had some ball-handling opportunities but primary off-ball founding space and scored off isolation plays. Irving is an elite shot creator; he is just one of the best players in the league at creating chances for himself to put the ball in the hoop or getting others to do so.

With Harden taking control of a lot of the playmaking touches, Irving was extremely active, running off screens, setting flair screens, and just beating defenders one on one. On top of that, Irving is an active defender, became more involved with having to use less energy on the offensive side of the ball.

Does the Title Rest in Irving’s Shoulders?

Yes and no.  Irving is crucial to how this Nets team operates. They have a fluid, spaced offense, and Irving is perfect for that style of play. On top of that, he is allowed to be as offensively creative as he wants to be because he doesn’t need to be the main guy. Furthermore, the Nets could have won the Finals if he doesn’t get hurt in Game 2 gains the Milwaukee Bucks. However, Durant and Harden are still the main guys on this team. Irving is just the player that turns a fantastic team into an unbeatable team.




Photo: The Ringer/Steven Ryan/Getty Images

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