OK … we might as well get this out of the way. The guy who is the likely top pick in the draft just officially tossed his name in. The Pistons need a lot of luck to win the lottery, but after looking at Austin Daye’s puppy all day yesterday, I suddenly feel very good about the Pistons and their future prospects. So let’s pretend the Pistons get the best possible outcome in this draft.
Measurables: 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, freshman point guard from Duke
Key stats: 17.5 points, 4.3 assists, 1.5 steals per game while shooting 53 percent from the field and 46 percent from three
Projected: Top two
How would he help the Pistons?
Irving, quite simply, changes everything. The Pistons don’t have to worry about whether or not Rodney Stuckey is a point guard anymore. They also don’t have to worry about overpaying to keep him.
Irving has the quickness to create his own shot through penetration, he sees the floor well enough to kick out to the Pistons shooters should his driving lanes get cut off and he’s athletic enough to go up and finish strong against bigger players. The reason he has driving lanes is because he’s a phenomenal shooter. Granted, he didn’t play a full season due to injury, but Irving shot 46 percent from 3-point range this season. Imagine an offensive threat like Irving, keeping the defense off balance, not knowing whether he’s going to drive or pull up, on the court with someone as adept at moving without the ball in the paint as Greg Monroe? Monroe has already been the recipient of many easy baskets this season playing without a natural facilitator on the roster. Imagine a lineup with Monroe and a healthy Jonas Jerebko using their energy and movement to always keep their defenders on the run, shooters like Daye and Ben Gordon on the perimeter and a playmaker like Irving orchestrating it all?
Despite the negativity of this season, the Pistons have several intriguing complimentary players. All that is missing is a guy with Irving’s talent and upside to make Detroit one of the most exciting teams in the league.
How wouldn’t he help the Pistons?
There are certainly legit questions with Irving. He’s not quite the athlete Derrick Rose or John Wall were as freshman phenom PGs. That doesn’t mean Irving isn’t insanely talented, but his style is different than those two. Because they are all freshman PGs who will all (likely) be No. 1 picks, the comparisons are inevitable. Irving might need more time to learn the nuances of the game simply because he doesn’t have the raw, freakish athletic ability the other two possess that allowed them to atone some mistakes early in their careers.
Irving also had a serious injury this season. He battled back and looked good during the tournament with no lingering effects, but he will be heading into the NBA with less game experience than most freshmen who make the leap.
What are others saying?
"Not as blazingly fast with his first step as Derrick Rose, John Wall, or even Kemba Walker, Irving plays at a very unique pace that keeps defenses consistently off-balance and allows him to get to the basket seemingly whenever he needs to. Able to drive left or right almost equally well, he has excellent timing on his drives, very good body control, and the ability to operate at different speeds. Rather than just attempting to blow by opponents using his pure first step, Irving instead likes to toy with his defender, using tricky stutter-steps, strong body fakes, and perfectly timed hesitation moves to beat opponents smoothly and slitherly."
"Irving may have only played 11 games this season, but he enters the draft as the odds on favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the draft. Irving is one of the most complete prospects in the draft. He has speed, quickness and range on his jumper. He’s excellent penetrating to the basket, sees the floor well and is a leader on the court. He’s not particularly elite in any one category, but the overall package is pretty impressive."
"A “true” PG with a great feel for the game … Charismatic player with the imagination and mindset to become a standout PG at the NBA level , “has a chance to be special”… A facilitator who shows the ability to make those around him better … Great vision and passing skills … Great burst. Has the blow by speed to get past defenders off the dribble … Good decision maker. Looks to make the right play instead of always trying to dazzle … Doesn’t force shots or overdribble (improved this in his limited time at Duke) … Excellent shooter with the ability to get shots within the flow of the offense."