DALLAS — Where were you when the Dallas Mavericks broke the NBA newswire by trading for league firebrand Kyrie Irving? The perpetually superstar-hungry Mavs sent shockwaves across the league ahead of the NBA trade deadline as they finally found someone to pair with their young MVP candidate Luka Doncic.
The unexpected event happened rather quickly by league standards, with the Brooklyn Nets looking to escape the drama after receiving an ultimatum from Irving when extension talks hit a snag. The eight-time All-Star asked to be moved off the team while threatening to sit out the remainder of the season until his impending free agency. The Nets were obviously over the saga, with trade talks formulating quickly ahead of Friday afternoon’s trade deadline.
As the situation cleared, out went Spencer Dinwiddie, fan-favorite Dorian Finney-Smith, a future first-round pick, and two future second-round picks. In return, the Mavericks gained the mercurial guard Irving along with former Dallas villain and current NBA twin Markief Morris.
The cost for the former 2011 No. 1 overall guard was steeper than first glance. The Mavs lost their heart by trading away skilled wing defender Finney-Smith and an extremely likable player in Dinwiddie, who had transitioned to become a second scoring option for Dallas in the wake of Jalen Brunson’s departure.
Unfortunately for us empaths, friendship and camaraderie doesn’t win championships on their own. Ultimately, the 2022-2023 Mavs, while neck-deep in the fight for a top-four spot in the Western Conference rankings, seemed to have reached their ceiling and were looking to elevate their talent level.
Irving, meanwhile, doesn’t represent a sure thing despite consistently being one of the league’s top performers. Don’t forget, he has walked out on every team that he has ever been with. He left LeBron James and Cleveland to try to win on his own in Boston, an arguably admirable decision at the time.
He then left the Celtics in a firestorm to team up with Kevin Durant in Brooklyn. Now, he heads to Dallas looking to finally find a place to his liking, with the thought that the Mavericks submitted a better trade offer than his preferred destinations.
Even with all of his off-the-court baggage, Irving becomes the most talented player that Doncic has ever been paired with as soon as he dons a Dallas jersey. He is a scorer and playmaker in every sense of the term and an NBA champion.
The Mavericks were up against the wall of public opinion already, as the goodwill of getting to the Western Conference finals last season eroded with their offseason roster turnover. Losing Brunson to the New York Knicks over the Summer left a glaring hole in the rotation for a shot-creator when Doncic was off the floor.
Now, Dallas boasts the league’s best backcourt, pairing the league’s scoring leader with a guard averaging 27.1 per game (11th best in the league). Irving also instantly becomes the team’s best free-throw shooter at 88%, a crucial factor in their fourth-quarter efforts. Opposing defenses will have to pick their poison, doubling either player will leave the other to wreak havoc.
Having an all-world talent like Doncic is a double-edged sword, with immense pressure to build a roster around the 23-year-old’s prime and take full advantage of every season that he remains a Maverick.
Does this trade change the perception of the front office being capable of surrounding Doncic with elite teammates? That question remains open until a significant free agent chooses Dallas on their own volition.
The Mavs should be given credit for at least taking a chance on the pairing working out. Without Irving, the ceiling for Dallas was clear as Doncic was forced to do the heavy lifting night in and night out with the wear and tear piling up. Now they have greatly improved their chances of contention for this season with two starting All-Star guards.
It is true that the Mavericks are taking a risk, but the onus is on Irving. He must know that he is running out of places to escape to. Even if one were to give the benefit of the doubt that each of his previous stops were not the ideal place for him to flourish, the optics will continue to follow him until his career is over or he wins on his terms.
Eventually, these headaches will outweigh his significant talents. For now, he is still in his prime and teams facing the decision will continue to take a chance.
Either Irving balls out for the Mavs and keeps the outside distractions to a minimum, or he or the team decide their situationship ends at the end of the season when his contract expires and both parties move on. If he stays, having two all-NBA players on the roster in Irving and Doncic gives Dallas a head start at playing the musical chair game of making all the pieces fit.
Do you believe Kyrie Irving is the missing piece for the Mavericks? Share your thoughts on the trade with Irvin on Twitter @Twittirv.