Kyrie Irving has been phenomenal this year. Its lethal combination of use and efficiency has really elevated it to the stratosphere of the stars. The numbers on the top line are not so different from what they have been in previous seasons, but they have improved in all areas in a very different situation than they have been in the past. Irving is the main driver of Boston's offense when he's on the field, and he and Al Horford have developed a chemistry in a few games that need other pairings to cultivate.
Irving's ability to score is and always will be the primary value he brings to his team. He is one of the few players in the league who can score accurately on all three levels: on the rim, in the middle range and from the perimeter. His shots are distributed almost exactly equally between these three areas and reaches a rate higher than the average in each of them. His ability to put the ball in the basket from anywhere on the court and his willingness to shoot from almost anywhere make him an immensely dangerous and unpredictable player who defenses must fight.
Of course, none of this is different from where Irving has been in the past. He came into the league as a high-scoring scorer and has only improved as he ages. What has changed this season is how he is getting his points: he is running many fewer pick-and-rolls and insulations, avoiding those less efficient possessions for more transfers, off-screen shots and appearances.
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The transfers in particular have shot up for Irving, just as they did for Isaiah Thomas last season. Irving has executed more than twice as many transfers this year as a percentage of its general use and is using more transfers than Thomas last season in the same role, all while staying extremely efficient. Only two players have received more transfers than Irving, and none of them is close to their level of efficiency in those plays.
One of the Celtics and Brad Stevens particularly "I like" is one I call Horns Hand Off, where the ball is entered Horford on one elbow and Irving comes from the other elbow for the hand. Boston runs this play in the last quarter of closed games when he needs a basket, and Irving usually delivers.
Irving and Horford have a great partnership in this type of play. Their skills combine perfectly; Horford is the perfect big man for the Stevens system (or really, any system) and Irving is an expert scorer and passer once he gets the Horford ball. Horford's ability to be spaced on the 3-point line is especially useful for Irving, who needs only a pinch of light to reach the edge. Horford opens the door completely for his owner and Irving makes the most of it.
See how Tyson Chandler, Horford's defender, follows him to the three-point line, completely removing the Suns' only rim guard: [1
No wonder that the Celtics score at a level commensurate with Houston and Golden State when these two are on the court together. Even when they go against the initial level defenses prepared to stop them, they bring out the best in others and work so well together that the offense does not stop ringing.
Another move that will often run Irving to the basket quickly, making it impossible for the Horford man to help, even if he wanted to:
Horford defender, John Henson , you have to follow your man up to the 3-point line, which perfectly opens the back door for Irving to break. If Horford were a great traditional man, Henson could lie much farther down the road, but Horford's ability to shoot and make plays for others from the top of the key forces Henson out of the comfort zone. Henson really does an admirable job of raising his hands on the hoop, but Irving's ability is too good to be dissuaded.
Irving is finishing around the basket is the only area where he has improved dramatically in previous seasons. It does not just break the 60 percent mark around the basket. He is completely destroyed. Currently, Irving has a 67 percent ERA in the season this season, an improvement of 10 points over last season and an improvement of eight points over his previous personal record. The Boston space has a lot to do with that, but it's not that Cleveland has had bad shooters surrounding Irving and LeBron James in recent years. Instead, it plays like the previous ones that help Irving get easier shots around the ring and increase his efficiency, in addition to his inhuman ability limit in that area.
At first glance, it does not look like Irving's figures are so different from what they were in Cleveland, but the opportunities he's getting They are much easier than ever before, even when playing. with the best player on the planet Stevens' moves and Horford's artificial abilities have created offensively even better opportunities for Irving to do what he does best: get cubes.