Why Kyrie Irving’s ball-hogging isn’t so harmful to Cavaliers (video)

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Kyrie Irving repeatedly brought the ball up court then shot before passing in the Cavaliers’ Game 1 loss in the NBA Finals last night.

He went 2-for-11 on those attempts.

Ideal? No.

Disastrous? No.

The Cavs had an offensive rating of 107.1 when Irving finished a possession without a front-court pass and 96.1 otherwise.

Two factors made Cleveland so successful when Irving put the onus on himself despite his subpar shooting in those situations:

1. He drew three shooting fouls when attacking without passing and made all six free throws. His ball-handling ability and stroke from the line are a dangerous combination.

2. Isolation basketball, while not always pretty, avoids turnovers. Irving committed three turnovers when trying to pass in Game 1. Not turning the ball over and getting up shots is particularly important given the Cavaliers’ rebounding edge. They scored five second-chance points after Irving’s misses in those shoot-first possessions.

The problem isn’t as much that Irving isolated so much – though it is a problem when he does it to that degree. The bigger issue is this is how Irving comfortably plays. He’s a better one-on-one scorer than passer.

It’d be ideal if Irving involved his teammates more, and that’d give Cleveland’s offense a higher ceiling. But it’d also lower the floor if Irving repeatedly turned the ball over – an especially poor outcome because it’d cost offensive-rebounding opportunities.

Irving undoubtedly forced too many shots without involving his teammates. If isolating is the plan, LeBron James is better equipped to do it – though repeatedly controlling the offense would limit LeBron’s defensive energy, as we saw in last year’s Finals. So, there is room for Irving to play this way and not always defer to LeBron.

It’s a fine line, and Irving is a little over it – but not in the drastic way that’s he’s getting blamed for today.