Kyrie Irving is one of the best bucket getters in NBA history. His handle is special. He can get to the rim, where he’s an excellent finisher. Or he can create space to shoot from perimeter with his pure jumper.
And he chased numbers.
“As a young player, you think that scoring a bunch of points and doing a bunch of things, getting individual accolades are great,” Irving said, “and I definitely was going after those things.”
Yet, Irving never led the NBA in points per game. A couple other players have been frequent roadblocks atop that leaderboard. Kevin Durant (four) and James Harden (last three) have won seven of the last 11 scoring titles.
Durant, Harden and Irving aren’t the first big three. They aren’t the best big three. But they’re unique in how concentrated their contributions have been in scoring.
Obviously, playing together will depress their numbers. But Harden (33.7), Durant (26.2) and Irving (24.6) have combined to average 84.4 points per game over the previous three years.
That’s the highest such mark for a trio of teammates in NBA history.
Here are the top trios by points per game in the prior three seasons:
There is plenty of team success on that leaderboard.
But none of Brooklyn’s three stars look like a Chris Bosh (who embraced doing the dirty work with LeBron and Dwyane Wade on the Heat) or even a Klay Thompson (who also defends and is historically comfortable scoring off the ball).
Other modern cases on the above leaderboard: DeMarcus Cousins was injured when joining Stephen Curry and Durant on the Warriors. Karl Malone was declining and near retirement while playing with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal on the Lakers.
Harden is a superb passer. But he has also developed a style in Houston of creating for himself and others by completely dominating the ball.
Irving grew accustomed to playing both on and off the ball as LeBron James‘ sidekick with the Cavaliers. But he forced a trade while Cleveland was still in championship contention.
Durant, Harden and Irving have so much offensive talent. They could overwhelm defenses, few of whom have enough perimeter defenders to match up with all three Nets stars.
But how will Durant, Harden and Irving share the ball? Who will embrace working off the ball? How often will one get frustrated by a relative lack of touches? How will they handle that near-inevitable clash of egos? Will the three stars contribute enough beyond scoring?
Scoring is the premier NBA skill. It draws the most attention and earns players the most money. That’s why Brooklyn is getting so much hype right now.
But there’s more to the game – as the Nets must figure out to win at the highest level.