The Cleveland Cavaliers put their future in the hands of former Duke point guard Kyrie Irving when they selected him first overall in the NBA Draft a couple months ago. The question is, will Irving get his chance to shine immediately, or will it take a year or two before he's ready to lead this team?
Let's flash back for a second before we delve into that question.
Before the draft lottery was held in April, everyone knew that whichever picks the Cavs received, they would need to hit a home run talent-wise, simply because they had such a depleted roster on which arguably only three or four players would've been regular contributors on a decent NBA team at the time.
Luckily for them, the home run was a grand slam, as they got the top pick, allowing them to choose whomever they desired. Obviously, that choice was Kyrie Irving, who was widely regarded as the best player in one of the weaker drafts in recent memory, in terms of star power.
The only thing that was somewhat questionable about the Irving selection was that the Cavs had already acquired a pretty good point guard in Baron Davis (along with what would end up being the first pick in the draft) before the trade deadline.
When motivated, Davis is a top-ten point guard in the NBA. The keywords there are "when motivated." He arguably has more talent than Irving, and is probably the better overall player at this stage in their respective careers.
And yet, because of Baron's age (32) and his questionable desire, Kyrie Irving should get major minutes right away. The Cavs are still a few years from contending, and I highly doubt Davis is in their long-term plans. If he doesn't like it, oh well.
Now, that does not mean that Irving should start immediately. I think that there can be a lot to gain by sitting the bench initially and watching how the game is flowing, potentially picking up tips from the veterans on the court and bench. Bring him off the bench, but still play him between 20-30 minutes per game.
I do believe that, by around the All-Star break, assuming the Cavs are already out of contention for a playoff spot, Kyrie should be given the keys to the car, and see what he can do as the driver for the last half of the season.
Will he make mistakes? Absolutely. The kid is young and inexperienced. Even guys like Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant struggled for stretches during their rookie years.
Will he have some highlight-reel plays? Definitely. Kyrie is too talented not to. He's a balanced point guard who can pass just as well as score. The opportunities to shine will be there.
It would also be nice if he's able to mesh well with the Cavs' other top-five pick, Tristan Thompson, as right now, they are the future of this still-recovering franchise.
All in all, I think if Irving averages around 15 points and seven assists, has a decent assist-to-turnover ratio and his shooting percentages aren't atrocious, then that should be viewed as a solid rookie campaign for him.
I'm not sure if those numbers would equal a Rookie of the Year award, but it would definitely send a sign to Cavs fans that the future is looking bright.