I was talkin about specific skill when I shot off the kyrie and AI thing.I think Kyries handle is a little better. Thats a legit take right?
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) June 15, 2017
That was Kevin Durant’s tweet responding to critics back in 2017 for his take on the Bill Simmons Podcast that Kyrie Irving was better than Allen Iverson. Those who are familiar with both of their playing styles and talent obviously can see the numerous mutual characteristics they share; the handle, the three-level scoring ability, body control, etc. Three years later, and here we are with Durant and Irving teaming up in Brooklyn to form their own super team. Irving, who has been battling numerous injuries since he left Cleveland and made a brief stop in Boston, was having an All-NBA caliber year from a numbers standpoint averaging a career-high 27.4 points a night and 92% from the free-throw line. The six-time all-star still maintained his usual efficient shooting from the field and three-point line at 48% and 39% respectively.
The downfall with Irving has been his availability, even with his superb play this season, he was in and out of the lineup with knee and shoulder injuries and participated in 20 games before deciding to have surgery on his right shoulder. This is a very vital point in Irving’s career seeing he just got his max contract and has the ideal players around him to chase a title while he’s still in his prime. That’s what was so odd about his sound bite earlier this season stating “I feel like we have great pieces, but it’s pretty glaring we need one more piece or two more pieces that will complement myself [Kevin Durant], [DeAndre Jordan], [Garrett Temple], Spence [Dinwiddie], Caris [LeVert], and we’ll see how that evolves”.
Aside from those that Irving mentioned, a couple of other role players on the Nets have shown true promise to contribute to a title-contending team. Rim protecting center Jarret Allen & sharpshooter guard Joe Harris were a part of the D’Angelo Russell led Nets squad that battled the Philadelphia 76ers to a very competitive five games last year in the first round of the playoffs. Newly acquired swingman, Taurean Prince, averaged 13 points a game in his third year for the Atlanta Hawks before being shipped to Brooklyn via trade in the offseason. So you can wonder what other pieces Kyrie Irving was referring to during that interview or maybe he was using that tactic to light a fire under his teammates.
If we look back in 2017 when Irving was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers after a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, LeBron James was quoted saying “We top-heavy as s—, It’s me, [Kyrie Irving], [Kevin Love]. It’s top-heavy”. So those who criticized Irving for his puzzling claims can’t say he hasn’t been influenced by other alpha mentality leaders in the past such as LeBron James and his mentor/friend the late Kobe Bryant.
Out of the blue, Nets head coach, Kenny Atkinson was shockingly fired midway through this season. Young players such as Russell, Dinwiddie, and Harris had taken leaps in their game under his vision and guidance so it was very surprising to see the Nets and Atkinson part ways so soon. There’s still a glaring hole as the Nets have yet to fill their head coach vacancy just yet but Jacque Vaughn will be handling those duties until further notice.
Some still debate, but arguably the best player in the world when healthy, Kevin Durant sat out all of the 2019-20 season with a left Achilles tear he suffered in last year’s NBA finals. There weren’t many expectations this year for the Nets this season knowing the two-time NBA Finals MVP was not going to suit up at all this season. When Durant was recently cleared by doctors for basketball activities rumors started swirling on if he’d return once the season eventually restarts but he quickly shut it down telling Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated in an interview “My season is over. I don’t plan on playing at all”. With Irving already out for the year and Durant opting to wait for next year what should we expect from this superstar scoring duo next year?
We haven’t seen the pairing of two all-time scoring talent’s like this in recent times especially at those two specific positions. Irving and Durant share parallels with the duo of Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony when Iverson was traded to the Denver Nuggets back in 2007. At the time the trade paired the NBA’s top two scorers in Iverson at No.2 (31.2 PPG) and Carmelo Anthony at No. 1 (31.6 PPG) with each other. All four of these players at their peak ability can score at all three levels of the floor and are at their best in isolation.
During Durant’s impeccable stint with the Golden State Warriors, when he shared the floor with arguably the greatest shooter to ever grace the hardwood in Steph Curry, they were a nightmare for defenses. But people seem to forget that Kyrie Irving outplayed Curry in both the 2016 and 2017 NBA finals. Irving averaged 27.1 points a game on 46% shooting from the field and 40% from three-point land including the most clutch shot in NBA finals history leading to the title. Irving then followed up next year by averaging 29.4 points on 47% shooting from the floor and 41% from the three-point line. Irving was delivering bucket after bucket on an array of counters, shots, and finishes with both hands all while being guarded primarily by All-NBA defensive caliber Klay Thompson.
No one has doubted Irving’s ability or what his ceiling could be as he’s proven himself from the beginning but we can only imagine what he’ll be able to do with Durant by his side. Durant is a multi-scoring champion and back to back Finals MVP winner. We know what he brings to the table. He’s arguably the most skilled, talented scorer to play the game.
What we do know is that both Irving and Durant have proven themselves on the biggest stage numerous times and they have the jewelry to prove it. They’re both coming off injuries, but are certain to be 100% by next season. With their often scrutinized personalities and no head coach to be named just yet, what answers will these all-time talents have next season?
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