Given how much respect NBA players have for Kyrie Irving, it’s no wonder one Golden State Warriors star is happy he doesn’t have to guard or switch on to the former Cleveland Cavaliers guard in the NBA Finals this year.
That man is Klay Thompson.
Irving, now with the Boston Celtics, is not just a crafty dribbler of the ball but a pain to run around with as a defender. Boston fell to Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals this year, stretching it to seven games but missing a date in the Finals.
That allows Thompson, who used to get a heavy defensive assignment with Irving when he played for the Cavaliers, to defend some of the lesser Cleveland guards. For their part, guys like JR Smith, George Hill, Rodney Hood, and Jordan Clarkson have been underproductive.
When asked about who were his top-ranked offensive players — and thus, who were the toughest to guard — Thompson said players like James Harden and LeBron James were right up there. He also singled out Irving in a special way.
Irving seems like he instills natural trepidation into NBA defenders, perhaps because it’s not just about getting beat with him. When Irving dribbles, it’s possible that you might get straight up embarrassed, which is never something an NBA player’s ego wants to defend against.