Last season, only Jimmy Butler and James Harden played more minutes per game than Kyrie Irving at 36.4. Irving logged a total of 2,730 minutes last season, 10th in the NBA total. He had a heavy workload.
Now, he is coming off fractured kneecap surgery, an injury sustained in the playoffs.
Which leads to the obvious — coach David Blatt and the Cavaliers want to cut back Irving’s minutes next season. From Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
The Cavs also want to cut Irving’s minutes. Mo Williams was signed to help out at point guard. Irving is coming off surgery for a fractured knee cap, so it makes sense to keep his workload light in the regular season.
As Pluto notes, this is exactly why the Cavaliers wanted Mo Williams.
With the veteran Williams and the scrappy fan favorite Matthew Dellavedova, the Cavaliers can easily trim six or more minutes off a night for Irving, getting him down to 30 minutes a night or just below. Plus, they can give him nights off. Considering the injury and what we know about guys who are rested playing better, all of this should be expected.
What helps is the Cavaliers will not pay a real price for this. The added Cavaliers’ depth, plus the fact they are in the East and have an easier path to the top seed, means they can lighten the load on Irving and still get have home court throughout the playoffs (or at least until the Finals). Then come the playoffs, the minutes will crank up again.