The Boston Celtics have one of the best point guards in the NBA in Kyrie Irving, but the argument has been made that they may be better without him. Attempting to argue that a team is consistently better without their most talented player is a tall task, but it’s been mentioned many times, especially as of late. And after the Celtics knocked off the Philadelphia 76ers on the road Tuesday without Irving, the chatter began once again.
While the new-look Sixers have impressed over the past two games since acquiring Tobias Harris, Brad Stevens’ squad went into Philly and picked up a key victory. And in turn, Twitter chimed in and pulled no punches with their thoughts on the Irving vs. non-Irving debate.
As crazy as it may seem, the numbers actually back up an argument that the Celtics are better without Irving. To be clear, that’s not saying that they’re a more talented group, but they’re a better all-around team at this moment. Considering the amount of talent spread across the roster, that can’t be considered all that surprising, as they don’t necessarily need a ball-dominant player at times.
Stats Show Celtics Better Without Kyrie Irving
Irving has missed 10 games this season and over that span, the Celtics have posted an 8-2 record. On the other hand, in the games he’s suited up for, Boston has gone 28-19. While it’s a small sample size, you can even go back to last season and look at how that year played out, considering Irving played in 60 of 82 regular-season games and missed the playoffs.
Over the span of three rounds in the 2017-18 NBA Playoffs, the Celtics went 11-8 and eliminated the Sixers in five games. As far as the games Irving missed during the regular season, Boston reeled off a 14-8 record, including winning 10 of 16 games over the final month of the season.
Beyond that, the Celtics average 112.9 points per game this season over 57 games. In the 10 games Irving did not suit up for, the average jumps a bit to 113.5. Obviously, this isn’t a drastic increase, but when looking at it against the entire league, this would bump the team from No. 12 in points per game up to No. 9.
Impressive Numbers of Celtics Players Without Irving
It’s not surprising that the bulk of Celtics players see usage increases with Irving off the floor, but it’s allowed young playmakers to thrive. As Basketball Monster details, every player except one who’s tallied 350 or more minutes with Irving off the floor has seen their usage jump.
*Note: Usage stats are from prior to win over Sixers on Tuesday.
- Terry Rozier (1,006.3 minutes): 18.4 to 19.7
- Jaylen Brown (711.5 minutes): 22.2 to 24.7
- Gordon Hayward (701 minutes): 19.4 to 21.4
- Jayson Tatum (662.9 minutes): 22.5 to 23.6
- Marcus Smart (611.8 minutes): 14.2 to 17.5
- Marcus Morris (547.6 minutes): 20.8 to 24.6
- Daniel Thies (442.8 minutes): 16.2 to 15.6
- Al Horford (356 minutes): 18.5 to 19.1
The only player who has seen their usage decrease is Daniel Theis, while names such as Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart, and Marcus Morris all see big increases.
Among the numbers that stand out most, Morris’ points per 36 minutes increase from 19.1 to 21.8 while Brown’s jump from 17.6 to 19.3. Each player is understandably tasked with doing more, but the Celtics have done an excellent job of playing team basketball in the absence of Irving. In turn, this makes his upcoming free agency decision even more interesting to monitor, although there’s no question the team wants him back.