You can hear different people throw around different terms – star, superstar, franchise player. For a very long time, there was a “Batman and Robin” discussion about Durant and Westbrook in OKC. Whichever term you use, we all know the most valuable players in the NBA are the players you can legitimately build a championship team around.
The Celtics are a textbook model of rebuilding. After trading Pierce and Garnett, they had an astonishing turnaround, drafted well, traded even better and were considered to be one of the best teams to challenge the Warriors and possibly win it all this year.
So who is their 1A guy, the most talented player on the roster? Everyone would say Kyrie Irving. He is Mr.Clutch, amazing in one of the most difficult moments of a playoff game – closing time. Kyrie can take control of the game in the 4th quarter, take on the scoring load on himself even when everyone knows what he is about to do. This is the rarest of skills, and you do everything to keep such a player. Or do you?
If Paul Pierce were advising the Celtics, he would disagree. He would probably agree Kyrie is the most talented player on the Celtics, but The Truth believes Kyrie is a 1B – what he was next to LeBron in Cleveland (via ESPN):
I think we already saw that in Cleveland, where he didn’t have to be the main guy. I truly believe if you create a system where Kyrie doesn’t have to be the leading scorer, to be that 1B guy – that’s a system we saw him be very sucsesful in. Now all the pressuer is on him, all defense, the scouting report. It’s tough for a small guard to lead a team to a championship.
Interesting point of view from Pierce. He elaborated unless you are a Magic/Curry all-time kind of point guard, he doesn’t believe you can be the 1A to build a championship around. When asked directly, Pierce confirmed he doesn’t think Kyrie is on Steph’s level when it comes to that.
He didn’t touch on his locker room presence, but it can’t be omitted that this is also a limiting factor with Kyrie. His leadership this year was forced and misguided, most evident in the way the Celtics play when he is not active – they are energetic, engaged, exactly the Celtics we saw last year in the playoffs.
This has free agency implications, and we hear more and more people voice their opinion the Celtics shouldn’t go all out to retain Kyrie. Chauncey Billups was in the studio and hinted the Celtics could be successful without Kyrie. Jalen Brown pointed out on paper Boston looks like the best team to be a part of, long term, yet Kyrie seems miserable there.
Nobody knows how bad the chemistry is and we know even less what Danny Ainge is thinking on this matter, but these playoffs will determine the Celtics franchise for years to come, and it is looking less likely it will be without Kyrie Irving on the roster than at the beginning of the season.