Paul Pierce says Kyrie Irving should play off the ball when he returns

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving is one of the best scorers in the NBA, and Boston Celtics legend Paul Pierce thinks his skills should be taken advantage of when he returns to the floor.

According to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News, Pierce said on ESPN’s “The Jump” on Wednesday that the Nets should run Irving off the ball and have Spencer Dinwiddie continue to run point.

Irving has missed the past 16 games because of a right shoulder impingement. On Dec. 13, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said Irving did on-court work at practice that day, but he hasn’t been cleared for contact.

“I think you got to play them both. And I really think Kyrie is a better player off the ball because Dinwiddie has been in the system for a year, they really had fun last year, they went to the playoffs, so they’re really used to him playing with that core group,” Pierce said. “Now Kyrie played his best basketball with Cleveland, with LeBron being the primary ballhander.”

Irving is one of the best guards in the league, but throughout his career he’s been a scorer. While he’s a solid passer, Irving is a natural bucket getter. In 11 games this season, Irving has averaged a career-high 28.5 points per game. Irving has a career average of 22.4 points a game.

Dinwiddie is a good player as well, but he has a skill set that’s more conducive to producing an offense that flows. He’s averaged 6.3 assists per game this season. In the 16 games Irving has missed, Dinwiddie has averaged 7.4 assists.

This season has been arguably Dinwiddie’s best to date, and he will likely earn All-Star consideration. He’s averaging a career-high 21.4 points per game and shooting 43.0% from the field.

Irving playing off the ball more could work, but only if he is willing to give up some ball handling duties. Irving thrives with the ball in his hands and making plays in isolation. This season, Irving is averaging 3.5 points on isolations, according to NBA.com. And as a guard on the rise, Dinwiddie is averaging 3.3 points on isolations.

When Irving comes back, the Nets shouldn’t take Dinwiddie out of the starting lineup — it would probably mess with his groove. But starting Irving and Dinwiddie together could help the Nets maximize both guards’ talents.

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