ACC’s Top-25: No. 6 - Kyrie Irving, Duke


Who says, Coach K doesn’t take one-and-done players?

While Kyrie Irving has never said he’s only in it for one season, the New Jersey native has all the tools to be in the NBA in 2011. Without question, he’s the best pure point guard coming in as a freshman this year. In fact, when the season is all said and done, he could be the best point guard period. He’s that good.

Many people smarter than me have already compared Irving to last year’s super stud point guard, John Wall. Averaging 13.6 points and four assists a game in under 20 minutes as the floor leader for Team U.S.A.’s under-18 gold-medal team this summer will do that.

This of course is probably a little much. He’s shorter than Wall (by about three inches) and he’s not as strong. Irving is also not as athletic as John Wall, but the fact is, he’s athletic enough.

If he reminds me of anyone though, it is former Duke point guard, Jay Williams.

Like Williams, Irving is simply good at every aspect of being a point guard. He can penetrate without a screen or nail a three from long-range. He’ll be Duke’s best ball-handler and passer starting from day one. He’s wicked smart, a must for a Coach K point guard, who will make everyone around him better, especially the brother Plumlee’s.

In fact, two areas where I can see Irving actually out-performing both Jay Williams and John Wall are three-point shooting and turnovers (or lack of).

Williams shot 35% from three as a freshman, while Wall only managed to drain 32%. Don’t be shocked to see Irving hit closer to 38% from three.

In regard to turnovers, both Williams and Wall averaged over four turnovers a game, producing a decent 1.6 assist-to-turnover rate. Not bad for freshman, but Irving potentially could be better.

The advantage Irving has is simple…he doesn’t have to be the man. When Jay Williams and John Wall showed up on campus, both were asked to be the leaders of their respected clubs. Both averaged over 34 minutes per game.

Thanks to the return of seniors Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith, Irving will never need to be the star. Sure as a point guard, you need to display leadership qualities, but thanks to a bevy of guards in Duke’s backfield, the team won’t live and die based solely on his performance. Less pressure lets the kid just play basketball.

Of course the great irony is, despite all the skills Irving has, in the end, this blog still can’t tell you for sure that this kid will actually start. The reality is, if Irving has to work on something, like all freshman, it’s defense.

If you’ve paid a bit of attention to Duke basketball over the last 30 years, you know, I know, my eight-month old son knows, defense is what matters to the K-man.

After sitting out a year, transfer Seth Curry not only has the pedigree, but the experience to also run the show for the Blue Devils. The fact is, whichever player shows he can become a lock-down defender at the point will win the job.

In the end, I think both Curry and Irving will do fine on the defensive end (it’s not like the league is filled with NBA-ready point guards). Overall, I think Curry is a better scorer, Irving’s a better point guard and that will help him land the starting spot, earning 20-25 minutes of floor time per game. I’d look for him to average about 10 per game, along with six assists per contest. He’ll battle Virginia Tech’s Malcolm Delaney and teammate Nolan Smith for a spot on ‘First-Team’ All-AC C honors.

#7 – JORDAN WILLIAMS, FORWARD – MARYLAND

#8 – DURAND SCOTT, GUARD – MIAMI

#9 – CHRIS SINGLETON, FORWARD – FLORIDA STATE

#10 – DORENZO HUDSON, GUARD – VIRGINIA TECH

#11 – DEMONTEZ STITT, GUARD – CLEMSON

#12 – REGGIE JACKSON, GUARD – BOSTON COLLEGE

#13 – JEFF ALLEN, FORWARD – VIRGINIA TECH

#14 – JOHN HENSON, FORWARD – NORTH CAROLINA

#15 – XAVIER GIBSON, CENTER – FLORIDA STATE

#16 – C.J. LESLIE, FORWARD – NORTH CAROLINA STATE

#17 – GLEN RICE JR., GUARD – GEORGIA TECH

#18 – REGGIE BULLOCK, GUARD – NORTH CAROLINA

#19 – MASON PLUMLEE, FORWARD – DUKE

#20 – C.J. HARRIS, GUARD – WAKE FOREST

#21 – SETH CURRY, GUARD – DUKE

#22 – SEAN MOSLEY, GUARD – MARYLAND

#23 – JOE TRAPANI, FORWARD – BOSTON COLLEGE

#24 – MIKE SCOTT, FORWARD – VIRGINIA

#25 - IMAN SHUMPERT, GUARD – GEORGIA TECH

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Tags: Duke Blue Devils Kyrie Irving