- (Photo: Reuters / Shannon Stapleton)
All eyes were on the Cleveland Cavaliers yet again, but this time it had nothing to do with LeBron James.
Last night, Cleveland used their top pick in the NBA Draft to pick up Duke guard Kyrie Irving at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. Irving received top honors after playing only one year at the college level, though he didn't even play in half of his team's games due to a toe injury. The Cavaliers apparently don't see the old injury to be that much of a problem anymore. They had a chance to examine Irving during workouts that he held for the team, and he took the toe into consideration when he declared for the draft.
After putting on his Cavaliers hat and shaking the hand of NBA commissioner David Stern, Irving spoke with ESPN, saying, “When I was able to execute really well in the NCAA tournament it made my decision to go to the NBA that much easier, so I'm looking forward to getting to Cleveland, it feels good to finally put a hat on.”
Irving, a guard, averaged 17.5 points and 4.3 assists per game in the few games that he played.
In the spring of 2010, “The Decision,” as it's come to be known, left Cavaliers fans heartbroken and angry when LeBron James left the team for the Miami Heat. After his departure, the Cavs fell from the best regular season team in the 2009-2010 season with 61 wins to the worst team in the Eastern Conference in 2010-2011 with only 19, and it became evident that the Cavaliers needed a pick-me-up, or two.
So the question now, the one we all knew was coming for the top pick, is, how do you fill the shoes of LeBron James in Cleveland?
“I'm really not looking to replace LeBron honestly, just trying to be Kyrie Irving and just contribute to the Cleveland organization as much as I can,” Irving said, as reported by The New York Times.
In an ESPN.com interview, Irving stated that he wasn't supposed to be a star, but through hard work he has achieved great things.
“I was never that top guy coming into high school,” he said. “I wasn't ranked higher or anything, I really worked my way up to the top and where I am now. And just the amount of work I have to put in now to be successful at the next level is something I'm looking forward to.”
Many people don't view this year's draft class as having many, if any, players that can make an immediate impact on the teams they join, though the potential is there for Irving to develop into a great player.
The Cavs also picked, in a surprise move, former Texas Longhorn freshman Tristan Thompson in the fourth overall spot. The 20-year-old finished with an average of 13.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game after his one year at Texas, sporting 10 double-doubles and a field goal percentage of .546.
Irving and Thompson are friends, having previously played against each other at rival high schools in New Jersey, and Irving is excited to have him there to go through the challenge of a rookie season together. “Having somebody alongside you that will go through the rookie ups and downs with you, it will make the transition into the N.B.A. that much easier,” he said, as reported by The New York Times.
The support of a friend and fellow rookie could prove to be invaluable to the number one pick, who is going to have a lot of pressure put on him by a city who became used to winning but now must watch as their team tries to rebuild itself.