Kyrie Irving will lead his Cleveland Cavaliers into the United Center on Tuesday against Nate Robinson and the Chicago Bulls. Or perhaps it'll be Kirk Hinrich drawing the assignment for Chicago, if his infected right elbow is better. Either way, it's not the late-February matchup we pointed to when the schedule was released last summer.
There's been more talk than ever about the NBA becoming a point guard-dominated league, but you wouldn't know that if you watched only Eastern Conference basketball this season. Given the absences of Chicago's Derrick Rose and Boston's Rajon Rondo, as well as the subpar season being posted by Brooklyn's Deron Williams, Irving has more or less defaulted to the head of the class among East point guards. It's not really close.
Irving ranks fifth among NBA point guards in WARP (9.5, prorated to a full season), but the first four are all in the West: Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Tony Parker and Stephen Curry. Behind Irving is a gaggle of solid, but decidedly second-tier performers: Jose Calderon, Kemba Walker, Kyle Lowry, George Hill, Brandon Jennings, Jrue Holiday and Williams.
That Irving plays for the lottery-bound Cavaliers shouldn't diminish something that in many ways seems to have slipped under the collective hoops radar: Irving is having a historic season. For Bulls fans, Irving's appearance on Tuesday in Chicago might be the closest thing to Rose that they'll get to see this season.