Using Basketball Prospectus' college basketball translations, we have determined player comparisons for 2011 draftees. Through game tape, our Sebastian Pruiti explores what makes these players so similar as well as what these draftees are going to have to improve on to validate the comparisons.
Despite playing just 12 games during his freshman season, Kyrie Irving decided to enter the draft, where he will more than likely be the No. 1 draft pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Irving's comparison is Derrick Rose, another No. 1 pick who entered the draft after a spectacular freshman season.
Pick-and-roll scoring. With both Rose and Irving, when they come off of a screen looking to score, they are very dangerous. This past season, Rose (who was a PNR ballhandler on 38.5 percent of his possessions) scored 0.878 PPP on 42.2 percent shooting (which is good enough to be placed in the top 25 percent among all players). At Duke, Irving posted the best PPP in all of college basketball, scoring 1.438 points per possession when using the screen on 70.8 percent shooting (17-24 from the field). Now, these extremely high numbers are definitely a case of small sample size (remember he only played 12 games), but there is no question Irving is a strong pick-and-roll player.
Both Rose and Irving also tend to favor the high pick-and-roll, with both players using this screen over 50 percent of the time (Rose runs the high pick-and-roll 50.5 percent of the time, Irving runs it 54.8 percent of the time).
What makes both players so dangerous coming off of a screen is that they are both quick enough and have strong enough ball handling skills to be able to use the screen and get themselves all the way the rim. In the video above, both Rose and Irving come off of a screen and are able to take advantage of the big hedging on them, finishing at the rim.
Both also use the high screen in similar ways, actually using the screen around 70 percent of the time (Rose--72.5 percent, Irving--70.6 percent) and go away from it around 12-15 percent of the time (Rose--14.8 percent, Irving--11.8 percent):
Again, due to their success using the high ball screen, the defense at times tries to push Irving and Rose away from the screen. Instead of forcing it, both players take what the defense gives them, drive away from the screen and attack the rim with the defense at a disadvantage.
Finishing around the rim. Another similarity between Rose and Irving is their ability to finish around the rim. According to Synergy, both players finished over 50 percent of their shots when in "around the rim" situations. Rose shot 54.1 percent last season while Irving shot 72.4 percent (again, this is extremely high due to small sample size, but the skill is there) around the rim. While Irving isn't the athlete that Rose is, he has the ability to hang in the air contorting his body to get a better angle, finish above bigger players, something that Derrick Rose is fantastic at:
On all of these plays, both players are faced with situations where if they go straight up, they get blocked. By hanging in the air, pumping, and contorting their body, they put themselves in a better situation to finish at the rim. Something they both do well.
Passing out of the pick-and-roll. While both players are good when they look to score coming off of screens, you see a gap in talent when both players are looking for their teammates when using a screen. Eventually, if you score enough off of ball screens, teams will start committing to sending defenders at you. While Rose does a good job of spotting teammates (who shoot 46.3 percent on Rose's passes out of the pick-and-roll), Irving struggles (his teammates shoot 23.5 percent on Irving's passes out of the pick-and-roll):
With Irving, the passes just aren't on the money. They get to their spots, but they aren't in shooting pockets. When he is leading the roll man with a bounce pass or a lob, he isn't putting the pass where it really has to be consistently enough right now when using screens. Another number that indicates the difference is the difference in turnover percent in the pick-and-roll passing situation (Irving--13 percent vs. Rose--6.7 percent):
Driving with the right hand. While both Rose and Irving have a tendency to drive left vs. driving right, Irving has a tendency to drive left much more (Rose--56.5 percent, Irving--62.9 percent). With Rose, he is extremely successful driving with either hand, meaning he is a threat to go either way. Rose's PPP split driving left or right is almost identical, scoring 1.141 PPP driving left and 1.145 when driving right (shooting over 50 percent in both situations). With Irving, there is a gap in his PPP split driving left or right, so much so that it becomes obvious why Irving has a tendency to drive right. Driving left, Irving posts a PPP of 1.0 on 46.2 percent shooting. Driving right, Irving posts a PPP of 0.538 on 12.5 percent shooting.
If Irving wants to become a Derrick Rose-type threat in isolation situations, he is going to have to develop a comfort level with both hands. One of the things that makes Derrick Rose so dangerous is because he is a threat to go either way and he is effective scoring when going either way. If these struggles going right continues in the pros, defenses will start to force Irving right, taking him away from his area of strength and putting him in situations where he struggles.
Watching the game tape of Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving, you notice why our college basketball translations compare the two players. Obviously Irving isn't Rose, and there are definitely some things that he needs to improve upon if he wants to get to that level.
This free article is an example of the kind of content available to Basketball Prospectus Premium subscribers. Future draft comparisons will be Premium content. See our Premium page for more details and to subscribe.
Sebastian Pruiti is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
You can contact Sebastian by clicking here or click here to see Sebastian's other articles.