by Joe Gabriele
Cavs.com Beat Writer
Posted: Jul 07, 2015
When Kyrie Irving led everyone with 30 points in his professional playoff debut against the Celtics, it came as a surprise to absolutely no one.
The days of Kyrie Irving surprising anyone with superstar-level production are officially over. In his four NBA seasons – and especially during this past campaign – Irving has proved that there’s no stage too big, no lights too bright and no opponent (in any arena) too tough for the three-time All-Star to overcome.
The only thing that slowed Irving down was a battery of nagging injuries – and one major, season-ending one – that ended his playoff run in overtime of Game 1 against the Warriors. That fractured left kneecap sidelined Kyrie for the remainder of the Finals and will force him to spend the offseason rehabbing for next year, but it can’t diminish the stellar season the former Blue Devil put together in 2014-15.
Kyrie’s already-brilliant career took a huge leap forward this season – both statistically and, more importantly, in terms of wins and losses. This year, the Wine and Gold won 53 games – just eight more than Irving’s first two pro seasons combined.
Irving played in a career-high 75 games this season, leading all Eastern Conference point guards with a 21.7 ppg average – averaging 3.2 boards, 5.2 assists and 1.2 steals per contest. Kyrie shot .468 from the floor and turned in career-highs, shooting .415 from long-distance (canning a career-best 157 treys) and .863 from the stripe.
This season, Cleveland’s three-time All-Star continued to etch his name among some of the Association’s all-time greats.
This year, Kyrie became one of five players in league history to average at least 18.0 points, 5.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game in each of his first four seasons (joining LeBron James, Oscar Robertson, Grant Hill, Steve Francis). He became the fourth-youngest player in league history to make three All-Star appearances (joining LeBron, Kobe Bryant and Isiah Thomas) and is one of five players in NBA history to reach 5,000 points and 1,000 assists before the age of 23 (along with LeBron, Kobe, Derrick Rose and Tracy McGrady). Irving’s 444 three-pointers made before turning 23 are the most in league history.
Kyrie led the Cavs in steals 26 times, scoring 24 times and assists 23 times. He even paced the Wine and Gold in blocked shots on 12 occasions.
This past year, Irving was named to the All-NBA Third Team and was the league’s Player of the Week twice. He notched double-figures in 68 of his 75 starts, scored at least 20 points on 45 occasions, posted ten 30-point outings and two 50-point performances.
In the postseason, Kyrie put all doubts to rest early and continued to roll from there – scoring in double-figures in 12 of his 13 playoff games, including seven contests topping the 20-point plateau. Before his injury early in the Finals, Irving led the squad with a .450 shooting mark from beyond the arc.
Kyrie continued to battle through knee and hip injuries through the playoffs. He averaged 23.3 ppg in the four-game sweep against Boston and 17.5 against the Bulls. Irving was limited to just two of the four Eastern Conference Finals contests against Atlanta, but hoped to heal up during the eight-day layoff before the NBA Finals against Golden State.
Irving was terrific in Game 1 – finishing with 23 points, seven boards, six assists, a playoff career-high four steals and two blocked shots – the first player to total at least 23 points, seven rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks in a playoff game since Chris Webber back in 2000.
Kyrie’s season ended in overtime of that contest, but if his first four years in the league are any indication, he’ll be even better in Year 5.