Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving is one of the most electrifying players in the NBA. The three-time All-Star can mesmerize you with his incredible ball-handling abilities, and he can make shots from anywhere on the court. But one aspect of his game that has drawn criticism is his assist numbers.
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The 24-year-old NBA Champion is part of the new breed of point guards who shoot first and look to pass second. This style of play has led to low assist numbers throughout his career. But lately, Irving has been on an assisting tear, averaging 7.8 apg in December; and he wants to get even better at setting up the team’s leader, LeBron James.
Irving has been watching film of Chicago Bulls shooting guard Dwyane Wade when he was LeBron’s teammate in Miami. Wade and LeBron had an undeniable connection, which led to two NBA championships. Irving wants to be able to make the kind of passes Wade used to for LeBron. Per Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com:
Irving has been studying film of James’ days with the Miami Heat and his first tenure with the Cavs from 2003-10, looking for situations where teammates would set him up. The play that led to James’ massive late-game dunk against the Warriors on Christmas was the result of the same type of action James used to run with Dwyane Wade on the Heat.
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“He used to do that with Mo Williams even before [Wade], they used to run that play,” Irving said. “He used to get major dunks on that. I watched them.”
Irving’s on-court chemistry with James has been expanding. Last season, Irving set James up with assists 43 times during the regular season. This season, the number is already at 42. Last season, Irving assisted one of every 17 of James’ baskets; this season that number has surged to one of every six. Those stats speak for themselves.”
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Irving is averaging 6 assists on the season so far, up from 4.7 last season. The more ball movement the better, and if he can keep finding LeBron, who has been shooting extremely well of late, the Cavs will be even more dangerous in the playoffs than they were last season.