Kyrie Irving‘s roller-coaster ride in Brooklyn has come to an end, with the Nets trading the mercurial superstar to the Dallas Mavericks. In return, the Nets welcome back old friend Spencer Dinwiddie and 3-and-D glue guy Dorian Finney-Smith, plus future draft considerations.
This trade is fascinating on many levels, not least that the Mavericks just traded for — at least on paper — the Megatron version of what they’ve been looking for to play next to Luka Doncic. Doncic is the ultimate ball-dominant player in the NBA right now, with the size of a forward but the ball-handling and decision-making of a lead guard. The combination makes him an MVP candidate, but it also makes it difficult to find a guard to successfully play next to him.
The Mavericks have been looking for a player who can play off the ball when Luka is running the show, but can be a secondary creator for when he’s in score-mode or on the bench. In recent years, the Mavericks have tried Dinwiddie, Jalen Brunson, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Seth Curry in the role with varying degrees of success.
Enter Irving, who is essentially built to play the role.
Irving can run the point but at heart he’s more of a shooting guard in a point guard’s body that has an amazing handle. Irving has averaged 25.9 PPG and 2.8 3PG on 48.5 FG% and 40.0 3P% over the past seven seasons, playing off elite ball-dominant/do-everything scorers ranging from LeBron James to Kevin Durant to James Harden to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
He’s also averaged 5.9 APG with a 2.4 assist-to-turnover ratio during that span, showing he can create when called upon but doesn’t require the ball every possession to be effective.
That is absolutely perfect next to Doncic… on paper. Kyrie should be able to knock down the open looks that Luka creates for him, take advantage of imbalanced defenses when Luka draws extra attention even off the ball, and in-turn warp defenses with his own offensive skill that makes life easier for Luka as well.
Kyrie takes about 20 shots per game, which is up from Dinwiddie’s 13 field goal attempts, but I don’t think the extra shots will come from Luka. Instead, I expect the Mavs to stagger the two such that Irving gets about 15 minutes of first-option time with Luka sidelined and for Kyrie’s extra shots to come from the role players, in addition to perhaps Christian Wood and Tim Hardaway Jr.
Kyrie’s numbers in Dallas should look very similar to his numbers in Brooklyn, as I don’t see his role changing all that much. And, as for Luka, If anything his numbers might improve a bit overall. Even if his scoring might drop a point or two, I expect him to still average 30 PPG, but with an elite finisher next to him that can also take pressure off/allow Luka to have more energy, I wouldn’t be surprised if he averages a 30-point triple-double for the rest of the season.
In Brooklyn, I’m not sure if the final shoe has dropped, yet. If the Nets don’t make any further trades, Dinwiddie would seem to be the big fantasy winner because he would get to take a good chunk of the shots Kyrie leaves vacant.
Dinwiddie has shown us, particularly in the last several games that Doncic has missed, that he’s ready to carry a larger role. In the last four games that Doncic has played four minutes or less, Dinwiddie has averaged 31.0 PPG on 18.3 FGA. We’ve seen Jalen Brunson take a leap this season with the Knicks once he got his own team, instead of playing off Luka, and we could see a similar leap from Dinwiddie. Particularly while Durant remains sidelined.
Once Durant returns, if he is still on the Nets, his outlook doesn’t change all that much. Durant has shown what he can do with and without Kyrie in recent seasons, but with Dinwiddie contributing a large percentage of what Kyrie did, he should make life easier for Durant than when Kyrie was out but still allow him to maximize his volume.
Ultimately, Durant has some upside to score and distribute more, because Dinwiddie just isn’t as high-volume as Kyrie.
All told, this was a blockbuster trade where both teams seemingly get what they want, and the fantasy prospects of all the main principals seems to improve. I’ll be eagerly watching to see if Kyrie plays consistently for the Mavs, if he and Luka mesh as well as theory suggests, and if the Nets make any more moves before the NBA trade deadline.
For both fantasy hoops and NBA fandom, this trade just turns the next few weeks into must-see-TV.