Kyrie's Historic Season Earns All-NBA Second Team Honor
BOSTON – Five hundred thirty players appeared in the NBA this season. Only one of them averaged at least 23 points and six assists per game while shooting at least 48 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range.
His name is Kyrie Irving.
Yeah, there’s a reason why he was named today to the All-NBA Second Team, and why has a legitimate argument that he should’ve made the First Team.
The memory of a single postseason series shouldn’t sour the outlook on what Irving brought to the table during the 2018-19 season. That would be a mistake. The reality is that Irving wasn’t just good this season, and he wasn’t just great. He was historic as he tallied averages of 23.8 points per game and a career-best 6.9 assists per game while shooting 48.7 percent from the floor and 40.1 percent from long range.
Yes, he was the only player to reach the numbers outlined above this season, but that’s only the tip of this statistical iceberg. There is far more gravity to this story. Let’s walk up the ladder of significance.
There are now two names in the Boston Celtics history book that have recorded a 23-6-48-40 season. One is Irving. The other is Larry Bird, who accomplished the feat four times.
There are only four names in the NBA’s history book that have recorded such a season. One is Irving. The others are Bird (four times), Stephen Curry (three times) and LeBron James (one time).
These are three very exclusive lists that Irving has etched his name onto, but there is even more to what he accomplished this season.
It has long been known that Irving is one of the top players in the league. He’s accomplished so much at age 27, including now two All-NBA nods, a championship, an All-Star game MVP, a Rookie of the Year award and six All-Star appearances. Still, this season arguably was Irving’s best as a professional.
The point guard set new career highs in total rebounds (335), assists (464) and blocks (34), as well as steals per game (1.54). He had previously never totaled more than 259 rebounds, 433 assists or 24 blocks in a season, and his previous high in steals per 36 minutes was 1.6.
Those numbers are all in addition to Irving being a scoring and shooting machine. His scoring average, field goal percentage and 3-point percentage all ranked in the top three of his career. (He has been remarkably steady in these areas throughout his career.)
Then there is the conversation about Irving’s defense, which arguably was at an all-time high. Certainly, Irving did not perform at an All-Defensive rate (although he did receive one Second Team vote), but he was pretty darn solid.
Among the 208 guards who logged at least 2,000 minutes this season, Irving ranked No. 6 in charges drawn (13), No. 8 in loose balls recovered (118), No. 17 in deflections (170) and No. 25 in defensive win shares (8.0).
The best way to compare the significance of those numbers is to stand them side-by-side with the man who stood next to Irving in Boston’s backcourt this season, Marcus Smart. The NBA on Wednesday named Smart to the All-Defensive First Team. Smart finished the season ranking among guards as No. 5 in charges drawn (15), No. 30 in loose balls recovered (83), No. 2 in deflections (258) and No. 21 in defensive win shares (8.3).
No one would argue that Irving is on the same level as a defender as Smart, but the numbers paint the story that Irving should receive more credit for his defensive effort and play than he is afforded on a daily basis.
That being said, let’s not kid ourselves here. The real reason why Irving earned his second career All-NBA nod, this time as a Second-Teamer, is largely due to his offense. He was historically impactful at that end of the court, and his improved defense was just icing on the cake.
The fact that Boston struggled through four postseason games against the NBA’s regular-season titan shouldn’t take anything away from that.