On February 6, the Mavs traded for a polarizing yet fantastic point guard, Kyrie Irving. His eccentric nature has been well-documented, and he’s even taken the blame for hurting multiple franchises throughout his career. However, his game is unlike any other, and he was expected to take this Dallas squad to the playoffs alongside Luka Dončić.
That did not happen.
After starting the season 29-26, the Mavericks went 9-18 after 2/6. It was a disappointment for the ages in Dallas. The season ended in a tank for a top-10 pick and an 11th-place finish in the Western Conference. How could this possibly happen to a team with two superstars?
The Mavericks gave up Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, and three picks for Kyrie. That’s a haul, even for a player of Irving’s level. As a result, the team looked drastically different. Here are some numbers to compare how the Mavs’ looked statistically divergent when Kyrie joined the team.
As you can see, the Mavs scored substantially more when they traded for Irving, but they also gave up substantially more points. This led to them having a negative point differential in their final 27 games. In terms of advanced analytics, you wouldn’t think this would be the case. Neither Dinwiddie nor Finney-Smith were true defensive assets. Irving put up a defensive rating of 117 with the Mavs, while Dinwiddie and Finney-Smith posted figures of 119 and 116, respectively.
However, the absence of Dinwiddie and Finney-Smith thrust other Mavericks into bigger roles. Tim Hardaway Jr., Reggie Bullock, and Josh Green put up defensive ratings of 119 this past season, which is in line with how many points this team gave up in the final third of the season (118.59). Not good.
The team lost ground in other key areas after the trade, too.
The Mavs lost around two offensive boards per game, which makes sense because Dorian Finney-Smith had a big presence on the glass. They also lost ground in the turnover battle, as they forced fewer mistakes after the trade.
The duo of Luka and Kyrie only played 16 games together. The team’s record in those games? A miserable 5-11. However, neither star’s numbers took a big hit in that timeframe. Luka was slightly less efficient, but that tends to happen when a player has to work with another star for the first time. In terms of play, I don’t believe it was really either of these guys’ fault. Could Irving’s presence in the locker room have negatively impacted things? Possibly, but that isn’t for any of us to say.
Losing two veteran presences mid-season is definitely a blow, though. Dinwiddie and Finney-Smith are two quality players who did a lot behind the scenes for Dallas. The Mavs’ rotation just didn’t look the same without them.
Despite this, they certainly were not getting Dallas over the hump. If they never traded for Kyrie, they most likely would have been an average playoff team with a chance at making the Western Conference Semifinals. So, you can’t really fault the Mavs for trying. In fact, I think the Luka-Kyrie experiment could’ve worked with better defensive pieces around them, but that isn’t the current reality in Dallas.
The Mavs are in rough shape following this season. Irving is an unrestricted free agent. Big men Christian Wood and Dwight Powell are, too. Dallas will most likely land the 10th overall pick, but if that pick doesn’t land in the top 10, it’ll be sent to the Knicks. The trade Marck Cuban and his front office made could have serious implications for this team’s future. We’ll see what happens in the coming months.