2019 NBA Free Agency: Can Kyrie Irving do it all on his own?
At the beginning of the 2018/2019 season, the Boston Celtics were mentioned as one of the favorite teams to win the NBA Championship. A healthy Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving had another chance to lead the Celtics to the top but came off as no threat in the East as the season went on.
The Celtics were eliminated from the playoffs by the number one seed in the Eastern Conference, the Milwaukee Bucks. The lack of defense, trust with teammates shown on the court and the coaching style, can be questioned for their elimination. The body language of the Celtics during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals showed that they had given up. With another failed season of not making it to the NBA Finals, Irving more than likely has played his last game as a Celtic.
Beginning to make headlines of where he’ll play next, this is not Irving’s first time around the block. The summer prior to the 2017/2018 season, Irving vocalized his unhappiness with the Cleveland Cavaliers and requested a trade. His reasoning of wanting a trade was that he wanted a chance to perfect his craft and move the ball more. Approximately one month later, he was traded to the Celtics. This trade provided Irving the opportunity to play alongside another superstar in Hayward.
The Celtics were projected to be legit contenders against LeBron James and the Cavaliers if they met in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics did meet the Cavaliers in the playoffs, but it was without their two star players who suffered season-ending injuries. At the beginning of the season, Hayward suffered a gruesome ankle injury and Irving was ruled out of the post-season after having knee surgery. Even without their superstars, the Celtics were able to push the Cavaliers to a deciding Game 7 of the ECF. They lost the series 4-3.
In the first round of the 2018/2019 playoffs, the Celtics showed why they were legitimate contenders in the East. Without Victor Oladipo, the Celtics swept the Indiana Pacers. It was Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Bucks where the Celtics showed they were not who we thought they were. They were dominant in Game 1, beating the Milwaukee Bucks by 22 points.
In Games 2 through 5, the Celtics' coaching staff used different strategies and lost by an average of 16 points per game. In the fourth quarter of an eliminating Game 5 for the Celtics, the ball movement stopped and the team started taking bad shot after bad shot.
With only two seasons of being the leader, it appears that Irving cannot lead a team to the championship. While working on perfecting his craft as the leader of a team, Irving's numbers are very similar to those of when he played for Cleveland, and in some cases lower. All blame cannot be placed on Irving not having help. In Boston, Irving was surrounded with role players who were able to create their own shots offensively and be productive on the defensive side.
Having the option to stay one more year in Boston or leave, Irving will definitely need to wait and see where Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard sign before making his decision. Irving can help recruit one of the top players to Boston or join them on another team.
If he’s looking to be a true contender on a championship caliber team, Irving will need to join forces with Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard or LeBron James because he hasn't proven that he can win it all on his own.