The year’s NBA off-season was one of the most exciting in years.
Carmelo Anthony and Paul George joined Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma, the Rockets added Chris Paul to their already impressive roster, and Lonzo Ball finally arrived in the city of angels. However, it was the trade involving Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics, which captured the attention of the NBA masses over the Summer.
The former Rookie of the Year requested, and was granted, a trade to the Celtics in August, a deal which saw Boston trio Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic along with Brooklyn’s 2018 unprotected first-round draft pick going the other way. Irving had spoken about how he wanted to become more of a focal point in his team– the franchise player if you will- a situation that would not be possible with LeBron James still the king in Cleveland. Despite the high price tag, Irving looks very much like he will be worth the money judging by the Celtic’s early performances. The season is only 11 games in, but Kyrie is already a serious contender for this year’s MVP.
After two defeats in their opening two games, the Celtics are on a 10 game win streak and currently sit top of the Eastern Conference. Irving is averaging 22.0 points, 5.7 assists and 2.1 steals per game this season, and despite not being blow away numbers, his consistency is delivering Ws for the Celtics. His standout performance so far this season, a 35 point game against the Hawks, was met with chants of “M-V-P, M-V-P, M-V-P” from a Phillips Arena crowd who sense that they are watching something special develop in Boston. When you’re the best player on the best team in the league, MVP contention is never far away.
It is also important to consider the fact that Kyrie is doing all this without the help of his All-Star team mate Gordon Hayward. The former Utah Jazz forward graphically fractured his tibia and dislocated his ankle in the Celtic’s opening night defeat to Irving’s old team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Hayward arrived in Boston off the back of an All-Star season with the Jazz leading them to the second round of the playoffs. Losing Hayward, and the manner in which it happened, was seen as a big blow for the Celtic’s, however Irving picked his team up and with the help of youngsters Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, has led them to 10-0 in their last 10 games.
What’s also telling is that Irving’s former teammates in Cleveland certainly seem to be struggling without him. Bare in mind it’s only November and the Cavs don’t usually kick into gear until March/April, but 5-7 including losses to the Hawks and the Nets are still causes for concern for LeBron and Co. They are without Irving’s direct replacement Isaiah Thomas and James can only do so much himself at his age. Irving-less, the Cavs are missing an All Star point guard, and it’s beginning to show. Early season or not, it must be pleasing for Irving to see his new team soar with him as his old team struggles without him.
With Giannis Antetokounmpo putting up 31.9 points a game, Steph Curry finding his best form again and James Harden almost breaking franchise records in Houston, the competition for MVP is looking very competitive this year. Provided Kyrie can stay fit and the Celtics can stay winning, the former Cavs point guard will certainly be in MVP contention. If early season form is anything to go by, it could be a memorable season for Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics.