Kyrie at crossroads, and what type of point guard will he be?

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) celebrates a three-point basket in the first quarter against the Charlotte Bobcats at Quicken Loans Arena.

David Richard/David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Kyrie Irving isn’t having the best of times.

Forget Irving’s numbers, because Stephon Marbury once put up great numbers. But as former NBA coach and current analyst Jeff Van Gundy once asked of Marbury, "Yeah, but are they winning numbers?"

Winning numbers. That’s something for which Marbury was never really known. He scored, he passed, he was a fantastic one-on-one player. And won nothing.

Irving has won nothing, either. The Cavaliers’ point guard is finishing his third pro season and has yet to make the playoffs. That’s not a huge deal, because a lot of really good players (and renowned winners) didn’t make the playoffs for a while.

But like Marbury, Irving is a point guard. He is the guy expected to lift his team, to make sure the ball keeps moving, to act as the coach on the floor. Has Irving been those things? Well, probably not enough. At least, not nearly enough in his first season under Mike Brown.



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In fact, Brown and Irving seem like a bad match. That’s not an indictment of either man. But Brown is not a so-called "point guard" coach. Irving is not a so-called "defensive-minded" point guard. The two have two entirely different approaches to the game. Neither is wrong, but it can lead to issues on the floor. That can lead to Irving getting frustrated and coming across as a ball-hog. That can lead to trouble with teammates — round and round it goes.

Irving’s NBA hero has always been Chris Paul. That’s a good role model to have. Paul is pretty much the opposite of Marbury. Unlike some point guards, Paul is more than happy to take six shots and score 10 points — if it means finishing with 10 (or more) assists and leading his Los Angeles Clippers to victory. Paul is also a committed defender.

Now, unlike Paul, Irving doesn’t have a talent like Blake Griffin filling the lanes on the break. But part of Griffin’s productivity is because of Paul — and that’s something Irving should keep in mind. Paul makes his teammates better, even flourish.

More than anything, Paul is a competitor. He doesn’t mail it in because he’s frustrated with the coach, with the system, or because his team is out of the playoffs. Granted, Paul once made it clear he wanted out of his former city (New Orleans) because he was unhappy with the fit and the coaching staff.

Irving could do the same. He is not thrilled with the Cavs’ system. It doesn’t take a trained eye to determine, whether intentional or not, it’s pretty much every man for himself on offense. Some of that falls on the coach — but some of it falls on the point guard.

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Also falling on the point guard are the type of half-hearted efforts put forth by Irving and the Cavs in the previous two games — both bad losses to some of the NBA’s lowest of the lows (Milwaukee and Boston). The Cavs and Irving have suffered too many of those types of losses this season. Way too many.

Both Brown and former coach Byron Scott pointed to a lack of effort in the previous three seasons. Irving has been this team’s best player all three years. He needs to take responsibility. He needs to take over. He needs to be the leader. If that offends some of the others in the locker room, too bad. As Michael Jordan once said, in order to get to the top, you’ll have to hurt some feelings along the way.

Irving is a bright kid with the potential for a Hall-of-Fame future. But Stephon Marbury isn’t going to the Hall of Fame. Chris Paul likely is.

So regardless of coach, regardless of system, those are things Kyrie Irving should think about as he enters the final game of the season (Wednesday vs. Brooklyn), and the next phase of his career. Who is he? What type of point guard does he want to become? Where will he go from here?