Kyrie Irving may have contributed to the Boston Celtics' chemistry problem last season and rubbed a lot fans the wrong way.

But make no mistake: The dude can ball.

Take it from Celtics guard Marcus Smart, one of the NBA's top defenders who's making an early case for Defensive Player of the Year.

In an article for The Players' Tribune on Tuesday, Smart listed the five toughest players he's ever guarded -- and Irving was one of them.

According to Smart, what sets Irving apart is his ability to "ad-lib and come up with things on the fly."

"I like to call Kyrie’s moves 'last-minute moves,' " Smart wrote. "As a defender, you’re running through Kyrie’s arsenal in your mind, narrowing down what you’ve seen him do and what he might pull out at that moment.

" ... Then literally at the last second, he hits you with something you weren’t expecting. And you’re like, Dang … how did he even think of that?"

Irving can pull off those moves, Smart wrote, thanks to his incredible ball-handling skills -- "He’s got the ball on a string" -- and body control -- "with his ability to dip his hips, switch up the pace and change direction in an instant, he can get to any spot on the floor.

So, how would Smart try to contain his former teammate? By staying home.


"You can’t fall for all the shakes," Smart wrote. "He’s gonna throw a lot of moves at you and pick his spots. So you gotta stay on your toes. Stay disciplined. And be ready for anything."

Unfortunately, Smart won't get the chance to employ this strategy Wednesday: Irving won't travel to Boston for the Brooklyn Nets' game against the Celtics due to an apparent shoulder injury.

Smart's full article is worth a read, as he actually lists a total of six players on his tough-to-guard list: Irving, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry and Los Angeles Clippers teammates Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

Get ready for Celtics-Nets Wednesday night with Celtics Pregame Live at 6 p.m., then check in with Halftime Live and wrap it up after the game with Celtics Postgame Live, all on NBC Sports Boston or stream them here through the MyTeams App.