National Basketball Association
Why Kyrie Irving should be top pick
National Basketball Association

Why Kyrie Irving should be top pick

Published May. 27, 2011 1:00 a.m. ET

As you might have heard, the Cleveland Cavaliers — still recovering from being caught in a tidal wave called LeBron's ego and washed up on the island of futility — landed the first and fourth overall picks in the 2011 NBA draft. The possibility of drafting two All-Star caliber players is a decent consolation prize for losing arguably the best player in the NBA.

Kyrie Irving, a scoring freshman point guard from Duke, and Derrick Williams, a scoring hybrid forward from Arizona, seem to be the only two viable options for the first pick. Even though many experts and fans consider this draft to be lacking in elite talent, the Cavs are still under a lot of pressure to make the right selection; and whoever they choose will be under a lot of pressure to help fill the shoes of Cleveland's last No. 1 pick.

Due to a right toe injury, Irving only played in 11 games for Duke last year. However, in his abbreviated season, he averaged 17 points, four assists and three rebounds per game and shot 46 percent from downtown.

His two most memorable performances were a 31-point outing against Michigan State (including 13 of 16 from the free-throw line) and a 28-point outing in an NCAA tournament loss to Derrick Williams and Arizona. Perhaps what was most impressive about his stats was his 1.75 assist/turnover ratio – highly impressive for an up-tempo freshman point guard.


Williams, on the other hand, had a .43 assist/turnover ratio. To cut him some slack, he's a forward who had to carry the offensive load for the Wildcats, but it doesn't bode well for his projected court vision, or lack thereof. In comparison to similar former draft picks, Michael Beasley had a .40 assist/turnover ratio in his lone season at Kansas State, and Antawn Jamison had a .49 assist/turnover ratio in his last season at North Carolina.

Beasley and Jamison aren't known for their ball-handling ability, and neither has ever averaged more than two assists per game for their career. Beasley may be quite young, but I doubt his assist numbers will ever be above three per game at any point in his career. Many have noticed Irving measuring in at 10 percent body fat, but Williams, who played all year, also measured in at 10 percent. Enough with the numbers. Let's compare their actual games.

Irving has the end-to-end speed NBA bigwigs drool over. He can catch the ball under one basket and dribble to the other like a young Jason Kidd or that Derrick Rose guy. He combines that incredible speed with excellent ball-handling, “amphibious” (yes, I mean ambidextrous) finishing ability, a tremendous first step and a respectable jumper. He also has great size at 6-foot-3 in shoes.

Aside from some obvious durability concerns, the only noticeable weakness in his game is his strength. Having strength isn't what separates good NBA point guards from elite ones, and it's illogical to expect a 19-year-old point guard to have an NBA body from day one — even if he is the first overall pick.

Williams was a dominant scorer and rebounder at the college level. He has terrific size for the small forward position at 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds, with a 7-foot-1 wingspan. But that's where the dilemma begins. Williams doesn't have the ball-handling ability or mid-range game to be a full-time small forward. He's not a shot-blocker, and he never displayed the lateral quickness to guard contemporary small forwards.

While he did draw a lot of fouls, the refs did tend to be a little loose with their whistles while earning their paychecks at Arizona games. Williams also displayed some trouble competing against length. He only shot 4 of 14 against Texas and 5 of 13 against the national champion UConn Huskies.

Irving would be drafted into a bit of a logjam in Cleveland, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The Cavs would have a much easier time trading Ramon Sessions, with the possibility of getting an upgrade at the 2 and/or 3 spot.

Irving could learn a lot from former All-Star Baron Davis, and Sessions — if he’s still on Cleveland's roster at the end of the draft — would provide good competition for the second spot on the depth chart. If Irving is able to start over Davis, then he'll have the proverbial “baptism by fire,” with the opportunity to learn the rigors of the NBA game early and often. It would do nothing but help him later in his career.

When you think about every dynasty in recent memory, they all have two things in common: An emphasis on defense and a dominant wing/big man. “Wait a minute. Isn't this supposed to be why the Cavs should take Irving instead of Williams?” Just keep reading.

Williams, more than likely, will never be a dominant forward. Even though this draft lacks star power, the Cavs shouldn't use a No. 1 pick on the next Antawn Jamison. While they may not regularly compete for championships, elite point guards such as Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Derrick Rose have been able to lead their teams to perennial playoff appearances. To be honest, Irving won't lead this team back to the playoffs in his first year.

With an incredible amount of elite wings and big men projected in next year's draft (Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones, Anthony Davis, James McAdoo, Jared Sullinger, etc), the Cavs would be better off waiting a year and grabbing the potential dominant wing/big man that nearly every championship contender possesses.

Sure, some of the names I mentioned may not seem like they're head and shoulders above Williams as a prospect right now, but players improve the most between their freshman and sophomore seasons. Pairing Irving with one of next year's wings would give the Cavs a very talented and exciting foundation.

Why Derrick Williams should be the No. 1 pick


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