It’s been just under a month since Kyrie Irving and James Harden agreed on who would play point guard and shooting guard full-time.
It’s worked out well. Irving shared those comments after a game against the Golden State Warriors in mid-February, and the Nets have gone 10-1 in that span of time.
Over that stretch, Irving has been putting up 27.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. He’s shooting 50.5% from the field and 43.7% from three.
Kyrie Irving just went off for 40 points in his latest game against the Celtics, and he did it while shooting 15 of 23 from the field and 5 of 8 from beyond the arc. He also added eight rebounds, three assists, plus a block and a steal.
There’s never been a doubt that Irving is an elite basketball player. The big questions were always centered around his leadership and whether or not he would be able to share the ball with both Harden and Kevin Durant.
Now, it truly feels like Kyrie Irving has been unleashed. Without having to worry about being the primary ball handler, he’s now allowed to focus on what he does best: get buckets.
It’s not like Irving suddenly stopped passing the ball., either In fact, his 5.8 assists per game are almost identical to the numbers he was putting up since the beginning of the season.
The big difference is that the Nets are playing better as a team, especially on the offensive end.
Here’s a comparison of their output in this current hot stretch vs. earlier in the season:
Last 11 Games: 122.7 PPG, 44 RPG, 28 APG, 12.1 TOPG (51 FG%, 43.6 3P%)
Previous 27 Games: 120.4 PPG, 44.4 RPG, 26.7 APG, 15.3 TOPG (49.6 FG%, 39.6 3P%)
That shows a slight improvement over what was already the top-rated offense in the NBA. Additionally, they’re getting good contributions from their key role players.
Here are the stats for the all Nets players other than Irving, Harden, and Durant that have averaged over 15 minutes per contest over the last 11 games:
- Joe Harris (11 Games): 14.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1 APG (54.9 FG%, 51.9 3P%)
- Bruce Brown (11 Games): 13.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.4 APG (57.8 FG%, 38.5 3P%)
- Jeff Green (7 Games): 11.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.9 APG (52.7 FG%, 45.5 3P%)
- Landry Shamet (11 Games): 10.6 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.2 APG (43.5 FG%, 42.3 3P%)
- Nicolas Claxton (6 Games): 9 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 0.8 APG (68.6 FG%, 0 3P%)
- DeAndre Jordan (10 Games): 8.1 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 2.2 APG (70.6 FG%, 0 3P%)
- Tyler Johnson (9 Games): 7.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.1 APG (39.6 FG%, 45 3P%)
- Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (7 Games): 7.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.3 APG (40.5 FG%, 36.7 3P%)
Let’s take a look at how players who were already on the Nets had been playing on before Kyrie converted to a full-time shooting guard:
- Joe Harris (27 Games): 14.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2 APG (51.9 FG%, 49.2 3P%)
- Jeff Green (27 Games): 9.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.3 APG (49.4 FG%, 41.8 3P%)
- Timothy Luwawu-Cabbarot (27 Games): 7.2 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.3 APG (38.5 FG%, 36.2 3P%)
- DeAndre Jordan (26 Games): 7 PPG, 7 RPG, 1.8 APG (78.6 FG%, 0 3P%)
- Landry Shamet (23 Games): 6.9 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 1.1 APG (36 FG%, 34 3P%)
- Bruce Brown (23 Games): 6.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1 APG (57 FG%, 19 3P%)
The role players certainly got a boost from a few key departures, such as Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, and Taurean Prince. There’s also the season-ending injury to Spencer Dinwiddie, and some prolonged absences from Durant.
However, the improvement shows that the role players are getting more involved in the offense, and also getting better looks. Come playoff time, this is going to be important as the game slows down and their three stars face more complex and fine-tuned defensive schemes.
Many of us felt that the Nets gave up way too much to get Harden, but it seems like the gamble was worth it, especially because of the on-court relationship he’s built with Irving.
I’ve talked a lot of shit about Irving this season, so it’s right to give him credit where it’s due. He’s handling his business on the court, and has helped the Nets turn into one of the most fearsome teams in the NBA this season.
Now that they’ve also added another X-Factor in Blake Griffin, there’s no telling how good they could be by the end of the regular season. When Durant is back and fully healthy, and if Griffin becomes a key contributor, we’re probably looking at an epic showdown between the Nets and 76ers for passage into the NBA Finals.