Channing Frye states he’d have Kyrie Irving guard Jayson Tatum to start NBA Finals

Mike Battaglino
3 Min Read
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Former NBA champion Channing Frye is putting forth a bit of a surprising strategy for the 2024 NBA Finals, saying Dallas Mavericks star Kyrie Irving should get the assignment of guarding Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum.

“This gonna sound crazy: I’d put him on Jayson Tatum,” Frye said of Irving on his podcast. “And just don’t let him shoot jumpers.”

Irving is by far more well-known for his offensive game, so having him defend Boston’s top scorer would be an interesting maneuver if actually implemented by Dallas head coach Jason Kidd.

This regular season, Tatum averaged 26.9 points per game, his fourth straight campaign averaging at least 26 points per contest. In the 2024 NBA Playoffs, the 26-year-old is averaging 26.0 points per outing as the Celtics have lost just twice in 14 games on the way to the Finals.

On the other side of the matchup, Irving averaged 25.9 points per game during the regular season, the first time since the 2018-19 campaign — which ironically was with the Celtics — that he scored fewer than 26.9 points per outing. In these playoffs, the 32-year-old is scoring at a rate of just 22.8 points per game.

Frye and Irving were teammates on the Cleveland Cavaliers when they won their only NBA championship in the 2015-16 season.

Each star player also has a similarly formidable teammate that also should draw considerable attention from the opposing side. For the Celtics, Jaylen Brown is averaging 25.0 points per game in the playoffs as he continues to search for recognition as a superstar that to date may be eluding him.

For the Mavericks, Luka Doncic is putting up excellent numbers in the postseason at 28.8 points and 8.8 assists per game. So, the matchups on both sides of the court will go a long way in determining the outcome of the best-of-seven series that begins on Thursday at Boston.

It once was thought that as good as Irving and Doncic are on offense, the combination would be detrimental to the Mavs on the defensive end.

However, Dallas has shown improved defense going back to the final stretch of the 2023-24 regular season. It ultimately helped the Mavs advance past formidable offensive stars from the Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves on the way to their first appearance in the Finals since winning the championship in 2011.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has focused on New York sports. He has covered the NBA and NFL for almost three decades and is still waiting for the next championship for the Knicks and Jets.