Duke Basketball: Kyrie Irving is having the best year of his career

The former Duke Basketball guard, Kyrie Irving, is having the best season of his career, this year with the Boston Celtics.

As you probably already know, Kyrie Irving is having another outstanding season and will be appearing in his sixth All-Star Game next month in Charlotte. The Boston Celtic point guard has elevated his game this season and looks poised to make his second career All-NBA team.

Irving is once again averaging over 20 points per game and currently has career-highs in assists (6.9), rebounds (4.8) and offensive rating (119), as well as a career low defensive rating (106).

Irving has always been an elite scorer but there has been one part of his game that people have often critiqued — his ability to make plays for others.

Irving is having a career year in that category. He currently has his highest assist% (AST) at 36.4%, since his rookie season and has 11 games in which he has recorded 10+ assists. In the seven prior seasons, Irving had just 30 games in which he did that, including just one last season.

Players who have a lower AST% than Irving include: LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard.

Irving has improved his play making abilities for others and his scoring hasn’t taken a step back because of it.

Much of the critique Irving has gotten in the past may not have been warranted because he played half of his career with James, who we all know is very ball dominant, and controlled most of the offense. But Irving is finally showing what he can do when he’s the man running the offense.

Over the past couple of weeks, Irving has had one of the best stretches of his career — recording 10+ assists in four of his last five games, including a career-high 18 two weeks ago in an important game against Toronto. He has also averaged 31 points per game on 56 percent shooting over that span.

Boston head coach Brad Stevens has been aware of Irving’s passing abilities for years.

“He’s always been a special playmaker,” Stevens said in his post-game press conference following the win against Toronto. “He’s always been able to play with the ball and make plays for himself and others. He’s had that gift since I’ve seen him at under-18 tryouts at USA Basketball. That’s always been something he could do. He did it more than people talked about in Cleveland, and you know he’s a threat to make the right shot. He obviously draws a lot of attention and he usually can make the right read off of that. He’s a great passer with great touch on his passes.”

Because Irving is such a gifted scorer, teams are often putting all of the defensive focus on stopping him, and he has proved this season that he has the ability to find the open man.

One of Irving’s most impressive stats this season is his box score +/- (BPM). BPM is a box score estimate of the points per 100 possessions a player contributed above a league average player.

A BPM of 0.0 is league average and Irving currently has a 7.5 BPM, which ranks sixth in the NBA, behind only James Harden, Nikola Jokic, Anthony Davis, James, and Antetokounmpo.

Irving also ranks third in offensive BPM at 6.9, behind only Harden and Steph Curry.

Another stat where Irving ranks upon the NBA’s elite is a players value of over his replacement, (VORP).

VORP is a metric that estimates each player’s value to their team measured vs. what a ‘replacement player’ would provide and this is another area where Irving (3.4) ranks in the Top-10 in the NBA. He currently ranks eighth ahead of players such as Curry, James and Kevin Durant.

Irving’s 3.4 VORP is second in the Eastern Conference and 1.2 higher than the next closest guard in the conference.

These stats show just how good Irving has been this season and if it weren’t for Harden and Curry, he would have had a chance of making First Team All-NBA for the first time in his career.

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