Likely top pick Kyrie Irving makes it official, enters draft


Kryie Irving is leaving Duke after his freshman year to enter the NBA draft. It’s official.

This wasn’t really a surprise to anyone except delusional, hard-core Duke fans who refuse to believe anyone is going to leave their heaven-on-earth campus, but reality intrudes once again.

Irving likely will be the top overall pick. Start trying to picture him in the wine and gold of Cleveland now. (Although if Minnesota gets the top pick they can add him to Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour and Jonny Flynn in a couple years for a four PG and Kevin Love lineup.) Follow this link to the official Duke statement, I’m not going to put those dull quotes here.

Irving only played 11 games this past season for Duke due to a foot injury, but recovered in time for the NCAA Tournament, stepped in a looked good. (Duke didn’t lost because of him, they lost because of team defense.)

Irving is maybe the one franchise-changing guy in this draft. He is a very good all-around point guard — he can shoot (46 percent from three), pass, he’s quick, he understands the game. He plays a position that has become more important in the NBA.

He’s going to be good. The only questions have been will he be Derrick Rose/John Wall good, or is he a step below them? (Note, we mean what Wall can grow into in a couple years, not what he was as a rookie, which still was pretty good.) Scouts are divided. However, in this draft, where there are no other franchise guys, it’s a risk a team will take.

Since we’re talking draft we’ll throw in another Tobacco Road note: junior Tyler Zeller and sophomore John Henson are returning to North Carolina for another year. Harrison Barnes, the one from that team who would be drafted highest, has het to make up his mind.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.