Kyrie Irving fits Raps' needs to a tee
By Sports Network
|Duke Blue Devils guard Kyrie Irving reacts while his team plays the Michigan Wolverines during their third round NCAA men's basketball game in Charlotte, North Carolina March 20, 2011. (REUTERS/Chris Keane)
TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors have quite a few holes to fill in the off-season if they hope to turn their fortunes around.
Out of all the areas that need to be addressed, point guard is among the biggest needs that the team has if it wants to move forward.
Over the past couple seasons, it's become apparent that all the time that Jose Calderon spent playing for the Spanish national team, in addition to his NBA season, has caught up to him and he's starting to break down physically.
His assist and turnover numbers have remained steady as always but he's lost a step on both ends of the floor and his shooting, particularly from behind the three-point line, has regressed.
The player Toronto traded for to potentially take Calderon's starting role, Jerryd Bayless, has all the physical tools to be a good point guard but his scorer mentality lends him to fit more into a sixth man role.
That's why, heading into the draft, the Raptors may want to consider selecting a true starting point guard and there's one in particular who should be at the top of their list.
Standing atop of most mock drafts, Kyrie Irving is the prospect that almost every team in the lottery will be aiming for as point guard has become the marquee position in the NBA and every bad team in the league, with the exception of the Washington Wizards, needs one.
According to scouts, Irving is the best point guard in the draft and is being compared to Chris Paul because of his high basketball IQ, uncanny quickness, ball-handling skills, excellent court vision and good outside jumper.
The major concern surrounding him, however, is the fact that he only played 11 games for the Duke Blue Devils this season due to a toe injury. Irving put up spectacular numbers when he was on the court, averaging 17.5 ppg while shooting 53 percent from the field and 46 percent from three, the sample size is still very small and his durability has come into question.
As serious as it may sound, this is a problem that will really only affect whether or not the Duke freshman will go first overall or second and it shouldn't have any bearing on anything the Raptors will do. If they do win the lottery, there should be no hesitation in selecting him.
Irving is exactly the kind of point guard Toronto needs. He can play at almost any speed, meaning he'll be great leading the fast break with all the athletes that the Raptors have but he'll also be able to get the team organized in the half court.
The former Duke star's penetration skills will also be extremely useful as Toronto will finally have someone who can break down a defense at the point of attack and not just look to score but to pass out as well.
He'll also be effective playing the pick-and-roll with Amir Johnson and Ed Davis as he's a threat to score from mid-range when he turns the corner.
Defensively, he should be a major upgrade as he has the potential to be a lockdown defender because of his great lateral quickness and ability to play the passing lanes.
What Toronto may need to look out for if they draft Irving is the fact that even though he can do nearly everything well, there isn't anything in particular that he's outstanding at and that could hurt him at the next level.
He's got good size at 6-foot-2, 180 pounds but he doesn't use it all that effectively as he hasn't put on the strength yet to fully utilize his body. Not to mention, he isn't an elite level athlete like some of the new-age top point guards in the league like Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook.
With that said, there's still little reason for the Raptors not to draft Irving if given the chance because the common gripes with him are mostly because he's still very young in his development period.
He's a true point guard and he's got all the tools to become a very good one at that. Even though he only played about a quarter of a full college season, because of his talent and what he could do for just about any team, Toronto needs to draft him if given the chance.