The Question Persists
Well before the Boston Celtics made it all the way to Game 7 of the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals with Kyrie Irving on the bench, the question has been asked. How valuable is Kyrie Irving?
Not only did Boston’s rookies put a scare in a LeBron James lead playoff team – the following year they started the season 10-2 in games Kyrie missed.
Now the Celtics without Irving are off to one of the best starts in the league, boasting a 10-3 record.
Stephen A. Smith says he is “not hearing great things” about Kyrie “from an attitude perspective.”
Meh – I actually think Kyrie is pretty good. Give phenom Jayson Tatum credit for his development, but we can do that without tarnishing another player. I think it makes for great podcast material to talk about how Irving is selfish and takes the life out of a team with his fancy ball-handling. It’s the kind of thing that’s easy to wrap your head around as a casual fan.
Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story. Irving – much-maligned for hogging the ball last year – was 3rd in the NBA in secondary assists. James Harden and LeBron James hardly ever get secondary assists. Why? Because when they operate they either attack to score or to set up a teammate for a shot. When they are involved in a play – they are highly likely to score or assists. They rarely move the ball just to move it. Rarely play like the 15 Warriors or the 14 Spurs.
Irving actually plays good ball. He will pass and cut; help everyone get involved. While Boston loyalist, Bill Simmons wants to act like the Nets have become a one-man show – Irving spends only about 50% of the time on-ball that a guy like Luka Doncic does.
While I think most casual fans underrate Irving – especially those that like to pretend they are more serious fans of the game, I think the betting market gets it right. To this current Nets squad, Irving is worth about 2-3 points. Brooklyn has gone 2-1 without him, beating the awful Bulls & Hornets. They lost to a decent Pacers team by 30, having lost to them by 10 two weeks earlier with Irving in the fold.
I still like the Nets -1 tonight against the Kings. This line tells me that with Irving playing the line would likely be Nets -3 or -4, implying even teams. The Nets & Kings were about even last year but each team has lost a lot of man-power in the interim.
However, while the Nets can help bridge the gap without D’Angelo Russel and now Irving – the Kings lack solid replacements for their injured young studs: De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley.
The best on-ball guy in this game by a mile will be Spencer Dinwiddie. While the Kings have more shooting, neither team has a major advantage in the frontcourt. The Nets get Jarrett Allen back from a one-game absence, still an underrated top 100 NBA player.
Overall, it’s not about how good the Nets are without Kyrie – but about how bad the Kings are without Fox. An interesting hedge bet might be to play Buddy Hield Over his point total because if the Kings win I would expect it would be on the back of a huge performance by Hield. That prop is available at FanDuel.