Why Kyrie Irving gamble could end up pushing Luka Doncic away from Mavs

NBA Dallas Mavericks Luka Doncic (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
NBA Dallas Mavericks Luka Doncic (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Kyrie Irving’s trade to Dallas is extremely risky, whether he stays or leaves. If it fails, we may see the end of the Luka era in Dallas.

The Dallas Mavericks trade for point guard Kyrie Irving is the most daring trade the NBA has seen this season – if not this decade. On one hand, it could make Luka Doncic and the Mavericks NBA champions. Or, in probably a more likely scenario, it could fracture the franchise’s relationship with Luka and push the Mavericks into a state of turmoil.

Dallas sent Brooklyn Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, and three draft picks in exchange for Irving. Objectively, this seems like a bargain for a player with an all-NBA repertoire.

The problem is that Irving is only under contract until the end of this season. If Irving leaves in free agency, then Dallas would have sent away two of their three best players for less than a half-season worth of Kyrie.

What Kyrie Irving decides to do during the offseason could impact Luka Doncic’s future in Dallas

If Irving leaves, Dallas will have lost not just Luka’s co-star, his one-time best offensive partner in Spencer Dinwiddie, and his best defender in Dorian Finney-Smith. Dallas would enter the summer with an MVP-level Luka Doncic and a slew of role players who wouldn’t be starters on a team that could veritably contend.

The hope is, of course, that Dallas will re-sign Irving after the season. This outcome, however, is bound to create an even more volatile situation.

Irving is the most unpredictable and unreliable player in the league: just ask LeBron James or Kevin Durant. As a Net, he missed nearly an entire season due to COVID-19 restrictions. He missed a chunk of this season after he was suspended for “unequivocally saying he has no antisemitic beliefs,” after a social media post about a movie centered around antisemitic ideas.

He has abruptly and unexpectedly demanded trades from each of his former teams. He is also injury-prone and has missed critical playoff games as a Cavalier in 2015, a Celtic in 2018, and a Net in 2020 and 2021.

Irving’s presence on the court is always sullied by his idealism, mercurial attitudes, and injuries. He is liable to be suspended, leave the team, demand a trade, or get hurt, at any moment. I don’t intend to present an indictment of Irving’s character. However, Dallas must recognize that if they keep Irving, it is certain something will happen that prevents him from staying on the floor with Luka.

It seems the only way for this trade to work for Dallas is if they win a title this year. Dallas is a contender, for sure: they have two of the most creative playmakers and prolific isolation scorers in the history of the game. But outside of those two, the Mavericks’ roster is rather weak. Christian Wood, Maxi Kleber, Reggie Bullock, and Tim Hardaway Jr. are respectable NBA players, but they’re not a supporting cast one could see hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

There is a lot more at stake than just this season in Dallas. The Mavericks might lose Doncic in the coming years if they can’t surround him with sufficient talent to win the NBA Finals. Doncic needed a second star, and there was one available.

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Yet, the Mavericks have just attached themselves to the most capricious individual in the league. Irving’s tenure has a high possibility of going very wrong, whether he leaves or stays. The failure of this trade is much more probable than its success and would make the path all the more clear for Luka Doncic to leave the Dallas Mavericks.