Kyrie will be a great fit - at least on the court

Kevin Durant likely has over a year to adjust to the Nets’ system. Kyrie Irving does not have that luxury, and Brooklyn’s success in the upcoming campaign will depend largely on how he meshes with a new style of play. After looking at some stats, there is certainly plenty to be optimistic about.

All Stats from the 2018-19 season:

  • The Nets ranked fourth in isolation frequency (8.1%) in the regular season, while Kyrie had the fifth-best EFG% in isolation (49.1%) for players who had three or more of these possessions per game. Just so you know, Spencer Dinwiddie was first (51.3%). In this sense, Irving fits into the current system and makes it stronger.
  • Brooklyn were seventh in frequency of plays initiated by the ball handler in the pick-and-roll in the regular season (20.1%) and first in the playoffs (26.7%), while Boston ranked sixth-last in the regular season (14.6%) and fifth-last in the playoffs (14.8%). Kyrie’s personal regular season frequency (29.4%) was well below that of Russell (49.8%), LeVert (38.0%) and Dinwiddie (37.4%).
  • Yet although Irving may need a little time adjusting to his increased responsibility in this regard, he should soon thrive under Atkinson. His 0.99 points per possession ranked in the 85th percentile as the pick-and-roll ball handler, ahead of LeBron, Harden, and Simmons. It appears his lower usage here was down to Brad Stevens’ system.
  • Albeit on just 2.1 possessions per game, Irving ranked in the 92nd percentile on spot-ups, suggesting that he can play a partially off-ball role in line-ups with multiple playmakers. Russell and Dinwiddie had a -3.6 net rating last year, so it would be nice if Kyrie, who had a +2.6 net rating when paired with fellow Celtic point guard Terry Rozier, can play alongside Spencer.
  • One of the Nets’ biggest problems last year was turnovers; they committed the fifth-most (15.1) in the regular season. Kyrie’s assist: turnover ratio (2.7), the fifth-highest amongst point guards to play over 30 minutes a night, should help solve this issue.
  • Of the 25 players to average three FGA or more across at least 20 games that involved clutch situations, no player bettered Irving’s FG% (49.1%). Although the Nets’ clutch stats were not terrible in the regular season (they were 24-20 in these games) and improved throughout, Kyrie’s presence should hopefully avoid a repeat of the catastrophes against the Pelicans, Grizzlies and Thunder at the start of last year.
  • A key part of Russell’s scoring success last season was the mid-range, but his FG% from that area (43.4%) was well below Irving’s (49.6%). These numbers came on similar attempts (304 for Russell, 282 for Irving).
  • Likewise, although Russell’s FG% in the paint, excluding the restricted area, (47.8%) was superior to Kyrie’s (43.4%), Irving shot better from inside the restricted area (62.2% compared to DLo’s 54.8%). Next season, we should see less floaters and short jumpers, and more efficient shots at the rim.
  • One negative: Perhaps the biggest criticism of Russell’s game is his inability to get to the line; only 9.3% of his points were free throws, which ranked 39th out of 42 guards to play more than 30 minutes per game. Irving is better in this regard, but not by much; he ranked 30th with 13.4% of his points from the line. Thankfully, Brooklyn were fourth in free throws attempted (25.5) last season, so this is not a huge deal.

In a vacuum, there is no doubt that Kyrie is an upgrade from Russell, and he should have few issues adapting to Brooklyn’s style. The question is whether his play on the court will outweigh his potential volatility off it.