[Editor's note: This is the TAI debut of Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) -- long-time reader, retired anonymous blogger, and the best pound-for-pound rebounder in DC -- (Dan's claims, not mine). Dan is here to discuss Cavs rookie Kyrie Irving, who's just 19-years old and having fun. For instance, as his coach, Byron Scott, spoke with the media at the Verizon Center tonight, telling them how Irving would be in the starting lineup (after missing last night's game with the flu), Irving jumped on a nearby service cart and honked the horn. Verizon Center security got tough with him, let Irving know that he shouldn't do that. The kid played tough, too, at first, but the exchange ultimately ended with smiles. Later, in the locker room, as Luke Harangody related the story to another Cavs teammate, Irving explained that that's just who he is right now, a 19-year old, and to check back when he's 22. I'll let Dan Diamond take it away. -Kyle W.]
Getting old isn’t fun, but there’s a silver lining for golfers: They can dream of one day “shooting their age“—a rare feat when a golfer’s age is the same or older than his day’s score.
There isn’t an equivalent trick for NBA players; shooting 35-percent from the floor when you’re thirty-five-years old won’t impress anyone. (And will certainly cost you a job. Except with the Bobcats.)
So let’s create one: PER-ing your age.
And by that measure, Kyrie Irving is having the greatest season by a 19-year-old in NBA history.
As TAI readers probably know, PER is the “player efficiency rating” stat created by John Hollinger to capture individual performance beyond points-per-game, total rebounds, and other simple measures.
For better or worse, PER has become the NBA’s version of the SATs—fans and analysts use it to compare players across teams and seasons.
Most players put up a PER between 10 and 18 for a season, though great players record a PER in the low-to-mid-20s. LeBron James this year has a PER of 33.2, which would be a single-season record.
So John Wall’s personal performance (a solid PER of 18.3) looks a little bit brighter when compared to Jrue Holiday’s season (a more pedestrian PER of 14.7), for a division-leading Philadelphia 76ers.
PER isn’t short for “perfect.”
It doesn’t capture the game-changing sensation of Wall picking off a pass. Hollinger freely confesses that it doesn’t fully incorporate defensive impact or reflect wins.
And PER is heavily dependent on measures like shooting percentage. So Irving’s fantastic shooting—as Cavs: The Blog’s John Krolik pointed out to TAI—has propped up his lofty PER.
But whatever you think of PER, consider this: PER-ing your age has only been accomplished by 58 different players in NBA history who played at least 500 minutes in a season, before 2012.
NBA players essentially have a ten-year window to pull off the feat. It’s just as hard to do early in a career, when a player is just figuring out the league, as it is later as physical skills begin to fade.
Every single one of these players—except for Greg Oden, who played 21 games before being hurt in 2009, and Greg Monroe this season—made at least one All-Star game in their careers and most were all-NBA.
More than half are Hall-of-Famers or shoo-ins.
Of course, it’s a little early to pencil Irving into the Hall, let alone onto an All-Star team.
Counting tonight’s matchup in D.C.—which Irving may miss because of the flu [note: he's playing]—there are still 32 games left in the season. But his performance would have to slip substantially to miss out on PER-ing his age.
It’s another piece of evidence that the Cavaliers should be ecstatic about their star rookie—and for Wizards fans to openly wonder if Wall’s the second-best point guard at the Verizon Center tonight.