It’s been well known for quite some time that Kyrie Irving is one of the best dribblers the NBA has ever seen.
That didn’t change when Irving became a Boston Celtic this season, and that certainly didn’t change when he had to put on a mask because of an injury, which also went down this season.
In fact, Bleacher Report gathered some of the best plays from the masked Irving, and they can been seen in the video above.
While Boston had the best record in the Eastern Conference last season, many people think this year’s version of the Celtics is even better, and a lot of that has to do with the play of Irving. Of course, the play of Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and many others can’t go unnoticed. This edition of the Celtics is stacked, and as long as Boston can hold onto this group of players (you can add guys like Marcus Smart into the mix as well), the Celtics are going to be competing for championships for years to come. That will especially be the case when Gordon Hayward returns from injury.
Let’s take a look at Boston’s hot start (via ESPN):
Without Hayward, and particularly without either Horford or Irving on top of that, the Celtics have been below-average offensively. They rank 18th in offensive rating, and even that has been bolstered by frequent second-chance scores and efficiency in transition. According to CleaningTheGlass.com, Boston’s half-court offense ranks 23rd in terms of points per play. Of the seven teams averaging fewer points per play in the half court, only the Denver Nuggets are .500 or better.
The Celtics’ fast start, then, has been built almost entirely at the defensive end. Boston’s league-leading 95.4 points allowed per 100 possessions is 3.1 points per 100 better than the next-best team in defensive rating (the Oklahoma City Thunder) and 8.4 percent better than league average (104.1 points per 100 possessions). If the Celtics were able to maintain that, it would surpass their 2007-08 championship team as the second-best defense relative to league average since the ABA-NBA merger.
Irving is averaging 23.7 points, 4.8 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game in his first season with the Celtics. One might say he’s also a big reason why Boston is at the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
More from the ESPN article mentioned above:
Individually, Irving has been exceptional. He’s finishing 49.1 percent of the Celtics’ plays in clutch situations, which ranks second to DeMar DeRozan among qualified players, yet has posted an impressive .619 true shooting percentage. Irving has largely replaced Isaiah Thomas’ production in the clutch last season, when Thomas had a 46.0 percent usage rate and a .654 true shooting percentage.
Whether the case, the mask has not held Irving back, and the proof is in the video above and Irving’s current stats.
Everything aside, there’s no doubt that Irving is one of the best dribblers in the game today, and it can most certainly be argued that he is one of the best dribblers of all time.