The Brooklyn Nets currently feature two of the top-ten scorers on a per-game basis in the history of the NBA/ABA. Kevin Durant ranks fourth, with a career average of 27.06 points per game. James Harden ranks tenth, at 25.17 points per game. Needless to say, it would be hard to contribute too much offensively on a regular basis with those two guys as your teammates... or so you might think.
That's where Kyrie Irving will tell you that you're wrong, as he's dropping 27 points on a nightly basis and continuing to make a massive impact — perhaps the single biggest impact — for the Nets. No other player on the roster has a higher Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) or more win shares than Irving. And, at least in the opinion of a former teammate, no other player in league history has been a more skilled presence on the floor than 29-year-old guard.
Cadence13 and ThreeFourTwo Productions' "The Long Shot" podcast, available on Audacy, invited Caris LeVert on as a special guest to discuss a number of topics, including how he felt when he first learned about his cancer diagnosis, his subsequent recovery, and his time as a member of the Michigan Wolverines, Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers. At one point toward the end of the jam-packed episode, co-host Davis Reid asked fellow co-host Duncan Robinson and LeVert about where they'd rank Irving and Durant in terms of all-time offensive talent.
"They're top three... I mean, for me, if we're talking just skill, I would say Kyrie's the most skilled player of all time," LeVert said. "And then I would say, pound-for-pound or for size, Kevin is probably the most skilled player. Like, I don't think we've seen a seven-footer be able to do what Kevin does. So that's why I say they're top-three or top-five.
"I wouldn't say there's guys who are more skilled or better than what they do. I think there's definitely guys who obviously have done what they've done, but just more skilled or being able to do more with the basketball... I don't think we've seen that."
Robinson agreed, taking us more in-depth as to how Irving's game may not come off as incredible as it really is: because he intentionally makes it harder for himself.
"You can look at numbers or championships and make an argument that so-and-so is better, this or that, but in terms of ability... I watch Kyrie and it's almost like he, on purpose, makes the game more challenging for himself just because he can," Robinson said. "Like, I'm gonna do this and then shoot this lefty floater on the right side off the glass, just because I can. I probably could have just got to the rim and laid it in also, but I'm just gonna do this because I'm capable of doing it.
"And he's — I don't want to say one of one — he is in a very, very small category of people that can do his finishing ability, his handle, all that. The way he moves. I agree with what Caris is saying for sure. They're certainly up there."
While these perspectives certainly won't spice up NBA's GOAT debate between Jordan and LeBron — Dr. J took care of that for us — it definitely makes you rethink how you evaluate who you're watching in today's game, particularly in the case of Irving. Is he really a top-five player? Take a look at the stats, and you'll wonder why you haven't considered Irving a top-three or top-five talent this whole time. Take, for instance, this example of the four players in league history with at least 22.0 points per game, a 50 percent two-point FG percentage, and a 38 percent three-point FG percentage throughout their careers (via Stathead):
The third piece of the Nets' big three, Harden, isn't far off that list — he just needs to bring his career three-point percentage up by 1.7 percentage points — and this list is just one of the reasons why it isn't hard to understand how the Nets are the offensive juggernaut that they are. Should LeVert and his Pacers, who are currently ninth in the Eastern Conference with a 30-35 record, meet with his old team in the playoffs, he's going to have to play out of his mind (and maybe use some of Irving's tricks for himself) if they want to seriously compete.