As the initial reaction to Kyrie Irving’s trade to the Mavericks settles (see full details here), attention turns to what lies ahead in Dallas.
Of particular interest is how Irving will play alongside Luka Doncic. The Mavericks’ 23-year-old star is a high-usage, ball-dominant player who has never shared the court with someone as skilled as Irving.
After reaching the Western Conference Finals last season, the Mavericks lost their secondary star, Jalen Brunson, who signed with the Knicks in free agency. Although they acquired Christian Wood to fill the void, it’s evident that Doncic needs more support if they aim for another playoff run.
Will Irving be the solution? Let’s examine his fit with Doncic and the Mavericks.
How Kyrie Irving fits with Luka Doncic, Mavericks
At first glance, adding Irving appears to be a positive move.
Since being drafted first overall in the 2011 NBA Draft, Irving has accumulated eight All-Star nods, three All-NBA selections, and a championship. He boasts career averages of 23.3 points and 5.7 assists per game, shooting .471 from the field, .391 from beyond the arc, and .882 from the free-throw line.
Irving is a supremely talented scorer with unmatched dribbling skills and a deadly shooting touch. According to NBA.com, Irving has converted 54.4% of his 2-point pull-ups and 36.5% of his 3-point pull-ups this season (based on a small sample of 40 games). In 2020-21, he posted similarly impressive numbers and became a member of the 50-40-90 club while earning an All-NBA Third Team selection.
It goes without saying, but possessing slick ball-handling and elite shooting makes for a potent combination. This gives Irving the ability to outmaneuver opponents one-on-one and generate high-percentage scoring opportunities through pick-and-roll plays.
And let’s not forget, Irving is capable of making tough shots with ease.
Irving is also an accomplished spot-up shooter, having connected on 41.3% of his catch-and-shoot 3-pointers during his tenure with the Nets. Although he excels with the ball in his hands, he has prior experience playing alongside ball-dominant stars like LeBron James, James Harden, and Kevin Durant.
Irving is primarily known for his scoring abilities, and while he may not be an elite passer, he’s still a reliable one. On the defensive end, he’s capable of putting in effort but is limited by his size. However, he possesses quick hands and can make up for it to some extent.
It’s clear that Irving and Doncic have the potential to form a deadly duo. Irving has a proven track record of thriving next to a player of Doncic’s caliber, and being in his prime means Doncic won’t have to carry as much of the load.
The Mavericks should also benefit from having a stronger bench presence during Doncic’s rests. Their offense takes a significant dip when Doncic is off the court, and they’ve yet to win a game in which he’s missed this season (0-7).
Are there any concerns with the Mavericks trading for Kyrie Irving?
Potential roadblocks to the Irving-Doncic partnership exist.
Irving’s availability has been a concern in the past, having played in just 143 of 278 regular-season games over 4.5 seasons with the Nets. Many of the absences were due to injury, but also included time off for a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Additionally, Irving’s contract expires at the end of the 2022-23 season, leaving him free to sign with any team of his choosing.
His unpredictability adds to the uncertainty, with former fans of the Celtics and Nets aware of his hard-to-read personality.
Offensively, Irving and Doncic have the potential to be dominant. However, the Mavericks lost Finney-Smith, a valuable defensive player, in the trade for Irving. The Mavericks have struggled on defense, ranking 24th in defensive efficiency, making it a concern for the team’s future success. To compete with the top teams, the Mavericks may need to rely on outscoring their opponents.
Kyrie Irving’s contract details, career earnings
Kyrie Irving signed a four-year deal with the Nets worth $136.5 million in 2019 that included a player option for the 2022-23 season, which he exercised, worth $36.5 million. Upon completion of this contract, Irving will become an unrestricted free agent.
Based on information from Spotrac, Irving’s total career earnings from salary will amount to $229.7 million upon the conclusion of his current contract.
According to NBA insider Marc Stein, the Mavericks have not guaranteed a new contract to Irving. Although he can sign a two-year extension now, he is eligible for a four-year extension in the off-season. Prior to the trade, Irving was reportedly seeking a four-year, $198.5 million extension with the Nets.
If Irving decides to leave in free agency, the Mavericks can create more than $30 million in cap space.
The free agency class in the off-season will feature some prominent names, including Irving, James Harden, Fred VanVleet, Khris Middleton, Draymond Green, Jerami Grant, Kyle Kuzma, and D’Angelo Russell.