"Basketball comes down, at the end of the day, to one thing. Who can get a bucket? Who can get the ball and go get a bucket? And Kyrie Irving is a master at getting a bucket. He has literally mastered getting a bucket. That's the one thing he may do better than anyone else in the league. Kevin Durant's up there too. He has a knack and a will for getting a bucket as good as anyone in the league, probably better. Him and Kevin Durant, I would say, and Steph's up there too."
There's a simple yet crucial distinction that most people miss in Carter's comments — one which shows how Irving can be overrated and underrated at the same time.
Regular-season NBA games are about all the fun stuff that makes coaches warm and fuzzy inside. You pass the ball to the open man, you give up good shots to get great looks — basically, you try to emulate the San Antonio Spurs.
Irving's not great at that. He does indeed dribble too much at times. His defense isn't always the best. And sometimes, you do wish the ball were in LeBron's hands.
If you judge the 25-year-old on how much he helps you win regular-season games as you have to listen to people tell you why he's a top-three point guard and a top-10 point guard, you're going to yell that he's overrated at anyone who will listen.
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The playoffs are a completely different beast, however. High-leverage NBA games with a championship on the line come down to the final moments, and as Carter said, the most important skill in those clutch situations is the ability to go get a bucket. When the defense closes in around you, can you shut out the noise, take your man, and score?
Irving can. He's one of the best in the world, as his Game 7 heroics in 2016 will attest. All of those hesitation moves that frustrate you for 82 games devastate defenders once that playoff intensity hits and teams have scouted all your favorite plays. You have to have someone who will go to the rim with no concern for the consequences, and that's Irving's specialty.
Being able to make the right play like LeBron is important in the postseason, too, but someone has to be on the receiving end of that pass from the King — someone with ice in his veins. (Someone who's not named Kyle Korver, if all else is equal.)
Irving is the perfect player to take advantage of a defense paying too much attention to LeBron. And if we're being honest, Uncle Drew's love for the most pressure-packed situations is vital to the Cavs, as it makes up for LeBron's passivity in the clutch.
Yet those opportunities for Irving to shine come few and far between. There are just so many more regular season games that don't matter than there are postseason contests with everything on the line. Balanced on a scale with equal weight, Irving's flaws exceed his contributions.
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Of course, we all know not all games are created equal. Someone who can directly help you win a championship is more valuable than a regular-season MVP who leads you to a first-round exit.
So you can say Irving is one of the most overrated players in the NBA. This is the internet in 2017; you can say almost anything. For the first 43 minutes of a game, you might even be right.
With titles on the line, though, the King trusts his protege to get the job done for a very good reason.
Irving is one of the most clutch players in the NBA today — and just as underrated as he is overrated.
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