2. Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving’s decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers seemed to scratch a lot of heads for a player consistently competing for a championship. Upon arriving at the Boston Celtics later that summer, many thought it was the perfect landing spot for a guy in search of a new challenge as the face of a franchise.
Boston seemed to have everything in place to make Irving happy. All-Stars Gordon Hayward and Al Horford flanked him at either side, while a supporting cast headlined by youngsters Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum were sure to make their mark.
Most superstars dream of Kyrie’s situation with the Cs, and it seemed to be working just fine on the stat sheet. The six-time All-Star averaged 23.8 points per game this past season while also posting career-best marks in assists, rebounds and steals as well. Ironically enough, it was the area Irving sought out the most that ultimately led to his demise in Beantown.
The Celtics underperformed all season long after such high expectations, finishing with just 49 wins and a five-game defeat in the conference semifinals. At the heart of it all was Irving, whose leadership qualities failed to measure up with his otherworldly talents with the basketball.
The roster lacked chemistry while Kyrie called out — both subtly and not so subtly — his inexperienced teammates. It was a tumultuous season, one so bad it’s likely most Celtics fans don’t even want the point guard back this summer.
There didn’t seem to be any public issues when Irving was slotted next to LeBron James in Cleveland. Next to the ultimate magnet of attention and indisputable leader of the Cavs, Kyrie could simply focus on basketball in its simplest form and do what he does best.
It’s a role he may have shunned at first, but time has a way of teaching the most important lessons. Irving isn’t a leader, but he certainly is a baller. It’s the distinct difference between the two that should ultimately drive his free agency decision come June 30, when he’ll likely take his talents to the Brooklyn Nets.