SALT LAKE CITY – The Mavericks have hunted for a true Robin to Luka Dončić’s Batman and they have bagged their man.
Kyrie Irving, an eight-time All-Star who is averaging 27.1 points this season, has been acquired by the Mavericks. He comes at a high cost. Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith and several future draft picks were jettisoned to the Brooklyn Nets to get the 30-year-old Irving.
The Mavericks also are getting Markieff Morris, a 33-year-old wing player, in the deal while sending their 2029 first-round draft pick and second rounders in 2027 and 2029 to the Nets.
From a purely basketball standpoint, it’s a no-brainer for the Mavericks. They are getting a superstar to pair with a superstar. They aren’t giving up any stars, although both Dinwiddie and Finney-Smith were key members of the franchise who contributed mightily to their charge to the Western Conference finals last season.
The Mavericks clearly are sending a message to fans, the league and to Luka’s camp that they will continue firing in the battle to build talent around their superstar point guard.
The deal became official Monday afternoon and came after more than a week of speculation about Irving as the NBA trade deadline looms on Thursday.
Irving, 6-2, will join Luka as a starter at the All-Star Game later this month. He also will be a free agent at the end of this season, assuming the Mavericks do not sign him to a two-year extension before then. Irving is making a fraction under $37-million this season, the last on a four-year, $136-million deal he signed in 2019.
With Dončić and Irving, the Mavericks will have the highest-scoring duo in the league and arguably the most feared backcourt combination in the game.
Irving is one of the best scorers in the NBA and has hit over 40 percent from three-point range in half of his 12 seasons. He’s a career 88.2 percent free-throw shooter.
Interestingly, he’s averaging 5.3 assists this season, exactly the same number as Dinwiddie has averaged. And Dinwiddie had no trouble alternating from the off-guard to the point when Dončić was off the court.
The addition of Irving instantly gives Dončić a more prolific sidekick than Dirk Nowitzki ever played alongside.
Irving is one of seven players averaging 27.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists in 2022-23. Among 40 players using two-or-more isolation possessions/game, Irving’s 1.28 points/possession lead the NBA and are the highest for any player (min. 2.0 iso possessions/game) since the statistic was first tracked in 2015-16. The Mavericks now have two of the top five players across the NBA this season in isolation points per possession, with Dončić (1.16 points/possession) also cracking the top five.
And yet, all the numbers guarantee nothing – except that it will be riveting to watch the evolution of the Mavericks’ backcourt.
Filling out the rest of the Mavericks’ playing rotation will not be easy with two starters exiting.
Finney-Smith has spent his entire seven-year career with the Mavericks after being undrafted in 2016 out of Florida. He built himself into one of the best 3-and-D players in the league and has averaged 10.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and shot 38.3 percent from beyond the arc over the last three seasons. And he always covers the opponent’s best offensive player.
Dinwiddie was acquired last year for Kristaps Porzingis and has been playing at a high level this season after fully recovering from major knee surgery in 2021. He is averaging 17.7 points and shooting 40.5 percent from three-point land this season.
Interestingly, Dinwiddie had some well-grounded comments about the approaching trade deadline after the Mavericks lost 119-113 at Golden State on Saturday.
His message was, essentially, not to stress out about things that are out of your control.
“Honestly, to a degree, make light of it,” Dinwiddie said. “Have a joke or two. It’s part of the business. And you got to be professional. Be ready to play whenever you’re number is called and for whatever team your number is called.
“Basically, what I tell everybody, including myself when I look in the mirror, it’s an honor to be in trade rumors. That means other people want you.”
Last year was a prime example, he said.
“Being traded last year for the unicorn (Porzingis), that’s a max guy,” Dinwiddie said. “As of now, it looks like a decent trade. If anything else does go down and it involves anybody on our team, that would be my message. To be a center piece or a couple of pieces that are part of a package for a superstar, (it’s a comment on) your reputation, your body of work. (It means your) stock is very high to be in that conversation. It should be a moment of being proud and understanding that business is business.”
Irving won a championship with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, when they beat Golden State in the finals.
For the past three years, Irving has teamed with Kevin Durant and, until this season, James Harden but the Nets were unable to make a serious run at an NBA championship. They did not advance beyond the second round of the playoffs.
He will be a starter in the All-Star Game on Feb. 19 in Utah. Either captain, LeBron James or Giannis Antetokounmpo, could elect to draft both Irving and Dončić, which would give the Mavericks the starting backcourt in the game.
The Nets and Mavericks already have finished their season series, by the way.
Irving is slated to wear No. 2 for the Mavericks.
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