Well, Kyrie Irving is a Dallas Maverick. In the second consecutive trade deadline, the Brooklyn Brooklyn Nets have traded a star guard in a deal that feels like came together all of the sudden. Brooklyn is receiving Dorian Finney-Smith, Nets legend Spencer Dinwiddie, a 2029 first-rounder, and two future second-rounders for Kyrie and Markieff Morris.
There’s obviously a whole lot to be said about the 7/11 Nets era, the most offensively talented big three of all time, and the absolute disaster-class in Brooklyn since the 2020 playoffs. As a New York native, I can tell you, that hype was real! However, there are two angles to look at this from a Wolves lens. Let’s start with the larger picture.
A Cuban Missile: How does this change the West standings?
The Mavs currently sit at 28-26, good enough for 6th in the West, two seeds above the Minnesota Timberwolves. In a conference where the 4 seed and 13 seed are separated by just 4 games, the main storyline for the Mavericks has been the single handed amazement of Luka Doncic. However, Luka has missed two of the Mavs’ last four games and the Mavs are 0-7 without him. It’s been a pretty simple recipe: with Luka, they win. Without him, they don’t.
Enter Kyrie Irving, who is easily already the best player Luka has ever played alongside. While Jalen Brunson is a personal favorite, his heart and “I’d rather die than play soft” style do not successfully match up to Kyrie’s ridiculous on ball offensive talent. It’s that same talent we saw work perfectly alongside offensive fulcrum Lebron James. And if there’s a player who plays like Lebron in this current NBA era, it is Luka.
This move has potential to boost the Mavs way up from their bottom-8 ranked offense. However, they simultaneously lose their best, and their only truly great, defender on the roster. Finney-Smith does not get nearly enough credit for playing a Draymond Green-esque defensive role for a Mavs team that needed. He hasn’t been nearly as good this year as last year, but his loss should be seen as nearly as big of a factor as Kyrie’s addition.
Where does this leave the Mavs in the West this year? Well, it certainly raises the ceiling. Kyrie can win games single handedly, can demoralize whole teams with ridiculous dribble combos and absurdly difficult shot making, and certainly gives Luka some respite from his offensive load that was bigger than the GDP of certain countries. It also leaves their wallowing defense in an even worse place. In my opinion, for this year alone, this Mavs team will either keep the same pace or find a rhythm for a second half run that has them looking like a top 10 team in the league. That’s not good news for the Wolves, who, despite their phenomenal start to 2023, need the rest of the West to hit a few hurdles to not end up in the play-in tournament.
Where this trade becomes more interesting is with the Mavericks going forward. Kyrie Irving is on an expiring contract and is reportedly looking for a long term deal of 40-50 million dollars annually. The Mavs have traded all their assets for a player that, according to Marc Stein, is certainly not a lock to stick around. Seriously, look at Dallas’ pick situation. They own their 2024, 2025, and 2027 picks, meaning only a max of two of those can be moved due to the Stepien Rule. Even those picks are entrenched in some weird, weird commitments. If I can use some of the most pessimistic logic possible, if this doesn’t work, the Mavs are screwed (as screwed as any team can be with a top 5 player on the roster). And that’s great news for the Wolves.
Last Guard Standing: Can the Wolves Chokehold the Trade Market?
I’m sorry to keep talking about D’Angelo Russell. I talk about him too much, I get it. However, with Kyrie Irving being moved to the Mavs, the Wolves and DLo hold the one of the few option for a starting point guard in the trade market, the others being Fred Van Vleet in Toronto and a 36 year old Kyle Lowry. Every team that was interested in Irving could now pivot to one of those three players. That includes the Clippers, Suns, Lakers, Heat, and even the Nets. Of those three players, Russell is having by far the best year. This certainly doesn’t mean that the Wolves have to trade their borderline 50/40/90 point guard, but it does open more avenues.
The most interesting partner here has to be the Clippers, who can offer great depth pieces and even fringe starters in Luke Kennard and Terrance Mann, both of whom have been very impressive as playmakers this year and would fill important needs the Wolves have. Their contracts also bring far more security as both are under contract for the next two years at least. Even the return of the ghost of Robert Covington (my mom’s favorite Timberwolf ever) would bring some much needed veteran presence and a needed KAT ally. The Clippers also have a similar level of desperation with this potentially being the last dregs of the Kawhi - Paul George Clippers era.
The Wolves are under no pressure to move DLo if they think they can resign him or find a similar package in a sign and trade in the summer, but his price tag has gone up, which is obviously great news for Minnesota.
Final Thoughts: What Just Happened?
In a move that made an in-conference opponent assumedly better, the Wolves can still find multiple silver linings. When Luka plays, the Mavs win at essentially a .600 clip. I’m not sure the Wolves can catch that anyway. This trade lends itself to the Wolves now with the improved value of D’Angelo Russell and in the future with the inconsistency and mercuriality of Kyrie Irving and his expiring contract.
It’s not as joyous as Kyrie staying in the East, but even outside of Dallas, this trade could have a real fallout for both LA teams. Lebron was publicly campaigning for Kyrie and Rob Pelinka is continuing to be about as available and active as a phone on airplane mode. The Clippers are thinking of waiving John Wall and have one of the worst point guard rotations in the NBA despite having multiple players at the position making more than 10 million annually. In Irving heading to Dallas, the Wolves have seen their conference be stricken with fervor and desperation that they aren’t facing. And if this move results in dumb moves from other teams, than that is a huge win for the present and future of potential playoff standings.
Kyrie Irving is a volatile addition as much as he’s an explosive missed trade target. And the Wolves are one of the few teams not in the splash zone.