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Mavs Analysis: Did Dallas Really Win Kyrie Irving Trade?

Dallas Basketball on FanNation 3/19/2023 Matt Guzman
© Provided by Dallas Basketball on FanNation

Nearly two months after acquiring superstar point guard Kyrie Irving from the Brooklyn Nets, the Dallas Mavericks find themselves with the sixth seed in the West. Due to the team's record with Irving and Luka Doncic, many have questioned whether or not adding the 30-year-old point guard was ultimately the right move.

Forty-one days ago, a blockbuster trade involving the Dallas Mavericks shocked the NBA world. 

After an experiment by the Brooklyn Nets saw three All-Stars in Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden united in the Eastern Conference, a series of early playoff exits and other outside factors forced the Net to make major roster changes. 

Harden was the first to go — traded to the Philadelphia 76ers last season for Ben Simmons — while Kevin Durant's departure to Phoenix at February's trade deadline put an end to the "big three" that Nets GM Sean Marks constructed back in 2019.

In between the two, however, just three days prior to Durant's departure, Irving's surprise trade request was officially honored by the Nets, as he was moved to Dallas for Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith. 

The move effectively ended the sweepstakes that had surrounded the veteran point guard since the summer, and since acquiring him, the Mavs have had a go-to scorer to both aid and fill in for combo-guard Luka Doncic amid a left thigh strain that has kept him sidelined for the team's last four games. 

But despite the obvious talent that Irving brings to the floor, the Mavs have lost more games than they've won since his arrival, raising some questions about his true impact for his new squad. One question stands out in particular following the Mavs' crucial road win against the Los Angeles Lakers:

Did Dallas really win the Kyrie Irving trade? 

In a literal sense ... yes. It did.

But a closer look into the Mavs' season since acquiring Irving might suggest that they have not exactly been "winners." Not yet, at least.

Irving has played 12 of Dallas' 16 games since he's been on the roster, during which the Mavs dropped multiple games to top-four seeded teams in the West like Denver, Sacramento and Phoenix.

Dallas' recent struggles have not exactly been Irving's fault, however. He has led the team in scoring on seven different occasions and passing on six, but still, the Mavs could not get the job done against tougher playoff-bound teams. 

Some might say Irving isn't a great fit next to Doncic — another superstar who thrives with the ball in his hands – as the two have gone just 3-6 in games where they play together. However, offense isn't a problem when it comes to the two star point guards sharing the floor. It's the team's defense that remains a huge question mark.

Fair or not, another stat supporting the narrative that Doncic and Irving might not be a great fit together is that Irving is 3-0 as the Mavs primary ball handler when Doncic does not play. The most recent instance of this occurred Friday when the Mavs topped the Lakers on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from power forward Maxi Kleber. 

In that game, Irving dropped his highest point total as a Mav — tallying 38 points, six rebounds and six assists — and though he was not the one to win the game for Dallas, he did dish the game-winning assist. 

Irving's presence was felt, and almost feared, by the Lakers' defense, who sent three defenders to cover him on the final play of the game. That is part of what the Mavs had hoped for when adding a first-class scorer in the league to their lineup. 

His on-court presence is also what Irving says helps his teammates, who he plans to rely on down the stretch of the regular season.

"It definitely creates a stepping stone for us building better trust," Irving said. "Down the stretch is really where we have to build that trust, and as well as I've been playing in the fourth quarter throughout this season, I don't want us to rely just on that."

Irving added: "I'm going to show up. But at the same time, I just want my teammates to be aggressive as well ... they make my job a lot easier."

In order for Irving's job to truly be easier, however, the main player in coach Jason Kidd's offense — Doncic — also needs to be able to win alongside Irving, which has seldom happened in games when the two have played together. Historic offensive numbers are great, but they ultimately mean nothing if Doncic and Irving can't win games together.

And with Doncic eyeing a regular-season return down the stretch when every win will matter for the Mavs, they will need to figure things out together before any solid determination can be made of the Irving-to-Dallas trade. 

What the Mavs do know, however, is that they got a reliable scorer and playmaker in Irving, who has proven this season that he can be the go-to guy for their team ... not only on the court, but off of it in the locker room as well.

As for the veteran himself, Irving has made clear that his focus now lies on Dallas, and that he likes where his team is at heading into the final 11 games of the season. All signs have pointed to Irving being extremely happy with his new surroundings.

As coach Kidd would attest, Irving is also establishing himself as a strong leader for the Mavs, which by itself could very well be the biggest "win" Dallas was looking for all along.

"It's easy to go through good times," Kidd said. "Everybody trusts [each other then], but to lose some games — to be tested — that trust is also going to be tested ... and [Kyrie] and Luka preach that in the locker room. We've just got to continue to stay together, and good things will happen."

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