LeBron James on Kyrie Irving: “I believe Kyrie can be the best point guard in the league.”

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Two years ago during All-Star weekend in Houston, one of the players marveled at Kyrie Irving in an off-record conversation with me and said within three years he’d be the best point guard in the NBA. When I asked other players about that idea they nodded.

That fictional title still belongs to Chris Paul (at least in my book) but Irving is up-and-coming, as evidenced by his MVP performance at the World Cup, leading Team USA to gold this summer.

And he has a big backer in LeBron James.

The new best player on the Cavaliers was in Portland Tuesday to unveil the new LeBron 12 Nike and praised Irving (and Kevin Love) to reporters, as passed along by Ben Golliver at Sports Illustrated.

“I believe Kyrie can be the best point guard in the league very soon, and Kevin Love is already in the discussion as far as being the best power forward in the league,” James said. “We have so many great [power forwards]: Tim Duncan, if he’s playing center or power forward, Dirk Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh, Pau Gasol is still very good. But that’s my vision, to maximize [Love’s] potential, and his potential to be the best at his position.”

So LeBron, what about your big three in Cleveland vs. the big three you left in Miami?

“That comparison is going to be brought up because it’s good conversation,” James acknowledged, refusing to pick a side. “The Big Three discussion is this whole thing that goes on in our league. It’s not new. The Big Three has been going on forever. You had Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain. You had [Larry] Bird, [Kevin] McHale and [Robert] Parish. You had Magic [Johnson], [James] Worthy, Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar]. [Michael] Jordan, [Scottie] Pippen, [Horace] Grant. Jordan, Pippen, [Dennis] Rodman. Jordan, Pippen, [Toni] Kukoc. This Big Three thing has been around forever, like dinosaurs. Going back all the way to [Bill] Russell, [John] Havlicek and Bob Cousy. It’s not new, it’s just more of a thing now.”

Well done dodging the question.

On paper you can say the Cavaliers big three should be better, but the question is how quickly? That big three with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh won two titles and went to four straight NBA Finals. Love and Irving have never played a playoff game. New Cavs coach David Blatt has a great offensive mind and a lot of international coaching experience, but it’s his first time at the helm in the NBA. There are a lot of questions about the Cavaliers (starting with defense in the paint).

One of those questions is how Irving goes from being “the man” to often a third option in the Cavaliers offense. He’s a great shooter off the dribble, his numbers drop on catch-and-shoots. Everyone has to adjust to the changes in Cleveland.

But if Irving does live up to the potential LeBron (and others) see in him, watch out. There could be a number of June parades in Cleveland.