As the Cleveland Cavaliers took to the floor against the Detroit Pistons for each team’s second game of the season on Wednesday, so too did three of the Top-8 selections from this past June’s Draft. While Tristan Thompson, the 4th overall pick by the Cavaliers, was already impressive himself in his debut on Monday (12 points, 5 rebounds), Kyrie Irving and Brandon Knight were both coming off games in which they struggled.
In game two none of them struggled though. The combination of picks No. 1 (Irving), No. 4 (Thompson), and No. 8 (Knight) in fact finished with a stat line of 47 points on 20 of 30 from the field, 14 assists, and 9 rebounds, with none of those three guys playing more than 29 minutes in game. If you just read the box score you’d say that Brandon Knight was the most impressive, carrying that group with 23 points, 6 assists, and 1 rebound, and he did play really well. But Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson each did as much or more to impact the outcome of Wednesday night’s game, and their team did also go ahead and get the 105-89 win too.
Kyrie Irving played only the first half, essentially, playing 19 minutes on the night. None of the reason he didn’t play more had anything to do with a lack of production on his end however. He only needed the first half to get himself into double digits scoring, and he had over five assists by the break as well. He finished his night with 14 points, 7 assists, and 4 rebounds, and those numbers would’ve been bigger if Ramon Sessions and the Cavaliers second unit didn’t maintain a 20-point advantage for most of the second half. Beyond the stats though, what Irving did in his second game out was push the tempo, first and foremost, and he helped push his team to the victory.
Tristan Thompson finished the game with a plus / minus of +18. The next closest Cavaliers players were Ramon Sessions and Alonzo Gee at +12. To watch Tristan play in the NBA so far it’s hard to not walk away thoroughly impressed by the kid. He is an electric leaper, and he is active on both ends of the floor all game long just like he was on Wednesday night in Detroit. He had two blocked shots, but he was smart enough to keep those blocks in play both times allowing his teammates to secure the basketball as opposed to trying to launch it into the third row. He finished with 10 points and 4 rebounds as well, and looks to be worth every bit of that 4th overall pick so far.
After a real tough first game for Brandon Knight, it was good to see him get his NBA legs underneath him too. The Cavaliers will not have many wins this season, but Knight’s Pistons look really awful to me so far. He’s going to have a tough enough time trying to figure out how to play alongside Ben Gordon, Tayshaun Prince, Rodney Stuckey, and all those other guys, in addition to finding his way in the Association, but he managed to find his groove just fine last night despite all that. The Pistons are reportedly trying to decide whether to play Knight at the two or at the one, and for whatever it’s worth, he looked solid enough to me at both positions. Knight shot 10 of 13 from the floor and 3 of 5 from three to get to that 23 point mark, and he also went 6 to 2 as far as the assists to turnovers were concerned as well.
So early on, none of these guys appear to be Darko-ish style picks. All look real solid, will be around for a while.