New York Knicks: Pros and Cons of Signing Kyrie Irving

Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, Kyrie Irving

It’s about that time of year, New York Knicks fans. No, I’m not talking about the home stretch of the regular season…or the All-Star game. And certainly not the playoffs. What I’m talking about is the annual “speculation period” for us loyal Knicks enthusiasts.

You know, that time when we pretend that we will be getting every free agent and the top pick in the draft and our young guys are going to be stars. Now, this may fall on deaf ears, but one of those free agents is a guy named Kyrie Irving, who plays for the Boston Celtics. If Irving wants to come, we should obviously give him the four-year max, right? Well, not so fast.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of signing the illustrious point guard:

Irving is an Unreal Offensive Talent:

Before I try to sell you on Kyrie’s offensive prowess, take four minutes and thirty-six seconds of your day and watch this:

So yeah, he’s good. Irving is averaging 23.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 6.9 assists per game this season, on 50/41/87 shooting. He ranks third in offensive plus/minus, 11th in player efficiency rating, and 13th in offensive win shares.

Irving’s combination of high-level three-point shooting, elite ball-handling, and an uncanny ability to finish around the rim make him almost impossible to guard. He is truly the quintessential modern-day point guard. He can both run the show and drop dimes (11th in assists per game) and take over the game at will (9th in points per game).

He’s a Proven Winner:

He has a championship-caliber pedigree. Irving has played in three NBA Finals, going 1-2. Irving hit the game-winning shot to beat the 73-9 Golden State Warriors in the 2015-16 Finals. He has proven time and time again that he both a highly skilled and clutch offensive player.

Obviously, his winning came when he had LeBron James on his team. However, playing in Finals and playoff games is important. A Knicks team next year would likely feature many key contributors that have never played a playoff game before. Irving’s experience would help as the younger guys tried to find their way.

He Fits Well Next To Kevin Durant – On the Court:

It’s impossible to deny that there is a lot of smoke surrounding KD and the Knicks. It’s Lebron to the Lakers-like in that regard. If Durant does come, teaming he and Irving up would be an offensive juggernaut unlike the Knicks have ever seen.

The pairing of Durant, who excels both as an isolation scorer and off-ball shooter, with Irving is incredibly enticing on paper. Neither player has a clear weakness on the offensive end, and the two could pick each other up if the other was struggling. Similar to what KD has now in Steph Curry, the Knicks would have two alpha scorers who are amongst the top ten in the league.

So why would the Knicks pass on giving this superstar the max? Well, for several reasons.

Irving has a Long and Worrisome Injury History:

Since he entered the league, Irving has played in just 488 out of a possible 656 games. He has had multiple knee surgeries, as well as an abundance of other injuries that have kept him sidelined.

On average, Irving has missed 21 games per year, and while injuries can be fluky, it’s clear he has trouble staying healthy. There is a  tough question on the minds of Steve Mills and Scott Perry this offseason. Can they justify giving Irving a four year, max deal, given his injury history? Does Irving’s incredible talent outweigh his risks? It’s a tough call, and I certainly won’t be envious of the two decision-makers this summer.

He is a Weird Fit Next to Durant – Off the Court:

I know, I know, I’m reaching, right? Well, I saw Nick Wright from FS1 make this point, and it was very interesting. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving both have extremely quirky personalities. Durant’s online spats with people my age (16), and Irving’s obsession with conspiracy theories have both been well-documented.

What Wright said, and I think it is worth considering, is that putting two of the weirdest guys in the NBA on the same team and as the two focal points could be a strange fit. Obviously, the talent of the two would likely trump anything else and the team would be successful. However, if the Knicks do have Durant in the fold, it would be smart to clear an Irving deal with him first, if only to ensure that Durant, who has played with Irving for Team USA and knows him, would be on board.

He’s Not a Great Leader:

If you look at Golden State, you see the perfect combination. A true leader of men in Steph Curry, and a quiet, reserved star in Durant. There is no pressure on Durant to lead. He’s free to get buckets without a lot of fanfare. Irving’s Cavs teams were the same way. LeBron was the clear-cut leader, and Kyrie had no pressure on him.

In Boston, however, it’s been a different story. If you remember, Irving asked for a trade out of Cleveland because he “wanted to have his own team.” The problem is, when he got to the Celtics, he had a host of young players he had to manage. Guys like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier were just coming into the league and needed leadership. He struggled to lead, and made that clear in this quote:

Irving may be asked to step up as a leader on a team with the soft-spoken Durant. While Irving has gotten some advice and certainly could become a great leader, it’s a clear concern as Mills and Perry mull their options.