Just two days after Kyrie Irving requested a trade by the Brooklyn Nets, the All-Star guard is on his way to the Dallas Mavericks to team up with MVP candidate Luka Doncic. The Mavericks are sending Dorian Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie, an unprotected 2029 first-round pick and second-round picks in 2027 and 2029 to the Nets in exchange for Irving and Markieff Morris.
Does this move make the Mavericks legitimate title contenders? What about Kevin Durant and the Nets?
Kyrie Irving is said to be “ecstatic” about the trade to Dallas Mavericks and “looking forward” to joining forces with Luka Dončić, a league source tells @NBAonTNT, @BleacherReport.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) February 5, 2023
Let’s start with Brooklyn. This was the best possible outcome for them. Irving made it clear he was not going to re-sign with the team this summer even if they offered him a maximum contract extension. But the Nets were never going to do that.
The reason we got to the Irving trade request is because the Nets wanted to place incentives and clauses in any potential contact with Irving.
Irving played 143 of a possible 278 regular season games during his Brooklyn Nets tenure. That’s barely half. Every year since he signed with Brooklyn in 2019 there has been an issue.
During training camp in Santa Barbara in 2019 the team’s performance staff, as it has always done, wanted the players to use wearables to track metrics. Irving balked. On the trip to China later that summer Irving refused to remove his hat for a team photo.
That season he played in only 20 games as he dealt with an injury and disagreed with the team on how to manage it. Depending on what reports you believe, he was instrumental in having Atkinson fired that same season.
The following season he took an unexcused 10-day absence from the team. During that absence he was seen at a birthday party violating the league’s COVID-19 safety guidelines and on a Zoom session for Tahanie Aboushi, a former Democratic candidate for Manhattan district attorney.
Last season he refused to comply with the New York City COVID-19 vaccine mandate, the only Nets player to do so, and was ineligible for home games. His refusal brought media and public backlash upon his organization and his limited availability negatively impacted team chemistry as he only played in 29 games. It led to James Harden demanding a trade and forcing his way to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Then of course there was this season where Irving was suspended for promoting an anti-Semitic video and refusing to apologize.
Irving is a brilliant basketball player and one of the most skilled players of all time. But he cannot function within a team dynamic. His time in Brooklyn, Boston, and the end of his tenure in Cleveland prove that.
Rather than let him walk for nothing, the Nets were able to reunite with Dinwiddie who is having an excellent season. Finney-Smith is a defense first, 6-foot-8 wing who is a career 36 percent three-point shooter. The Nets also receive three draft picks. Important, since they don’t control their draft for the next five seasons due to acquiring Harden from the Houston Rockets.
Sources: Brooklyn Nets received Los Angeles Lakers’ proposal that did include team’s two first-round picks (2027, 2029) and Phoenix Suns’ offer of Chris Paul, Jae Crowder and unspecified picks: @NBATV pic.twitter.com/cJuABbaYGy
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) February 6, 2023
As for the Mavericks, this move reeked of desperation. Governor Mark Cuban is worried Doncic will grow unhappy and wield his power in a way that makes things difficult. Doncic now has a proven playoff performer in Irving. A player who has demonstrated he can be the second star on a title team. But Doncic isn’t LeBron James, so it will be interesting to see how he’s able to blend with Irving’s mercurial tendencies.
Offensively the Mavericks will be tough to guard, whether Doncic or Irving is on the ball. In crunch time Doncic can spray the ball to a cutting and moving Irving who can shoot, attack off the bounce or create for someone else.
The Mavericks defense will take a step back without Finney-Smith, but maybe their overwhelming offense in a Western Conference with no juggernaut will be enough.
Irving wants a long-term extension. Given his track record it’s hard to imagine any team volunteering to get into a four-year marriage with him. But it only takes one. How he finishes the rest of this season will go a long way in determining who that team is.
As for the Nets with the return of a healthy Durant, this roster is pretty good. Dinwiddie doesn’t replace Irving’s 27 points and 50/40/90 shooting. But he’s above average and dependable. Knowing he will show up every night is an advantage.
Expect the Nets to make another move for a big man to pair or back up Nic Claxton. Depending on how that team finishes the season and the playoffs will go a long way in determining whether Durant is long for Brooklyn after his bestie asked out and got his wish.