The Dallas Mavericks managing to ease their way out of the public eye during the 2023 NBA Playoffs. So, perhaps this won’t be a statement that shatters worlds.
The Mavs must re-sign Kyrie Irving this offseason.
Finally with a franchise more concerned about what he provides on the court than his personality off of it, the out-of-the-box All-Star played well during the regular season. In 20 games, Irving averaged 27.0 points, 6.0 assists and 1.3 steals per game. Ever efficient, he did so while shooting 51.0 percent from the field and 39.2 percent from 3.
Dallas was unable to find the right pieces to fit around he and Luka Doncic though. These problems were primarily on the defensive end, leading to 7-15 record after the All-Star Break.
Nonetheless, a team will rarely have the opportunity to place two players of their caliber together. Truly, if the Mavs can acquire the right supporting cast for them, it’ll be very exciting watching the two together in the long run.
Of course, Irving and Doncic will need to develop a chemistry and rhythm. However, that simply comes with playing together, whether it’s in open runs, scrimmages, exhibitions or actual games. Therefore, the hope would be that the two eventually or at least have plans to work out together during the offseason.
They could even bring along the players they feel would fit best.
That part may get complicated, as multiple players on the roster could be used in a trade package for a third star or defensive presence. In fact, veteran wing Tim Hardaway Jr. has had his name brought up constantly and with a $17.9 million price tag next season.
Rumors may only be that, but Dallas could really be considering utilizing him in a trade. After all, his salary and the No. 10 pick in the NBA Draft might be part of the trade package that lands them a star.
Options on options on options
That said, looking around at the NBA landscape, not many defensive-inclined stars look to be available.
NBA fans have what are — at least for now — pipe dreams of Giannis Antetokounmpo leaving the Milwaukee Bucks due to them changing ownership and firing head coach Mike Budenholzer amid a playoff collapse. However, the ideal target for the Mavs might be Toronto Raptors power forward Pascal Siakam.
A player that can play three positions at a high level, the versatile Siakam would provide solid rim-protection for the Mavs whether providing help or defending the pivot.
The Raptors have a couple of players that could help the Mavs as well, with OG Anunoby long being considered a trade candidate and Gary Trent Jr. having a player option on his contract for next season.
Anunoby, a versatile perimeter defender that was named to the 2022-23 All-Defensive second team, is the type of player that can guard an opposing team’s top scoring option. In the case of Trent, another suffocating perimeter defender, there may be multiple options. Although the Mavs will have up to $21 million in cap space this offseason, they could look to bring Trent over in a sign-and-trade.
That said, if the Mavs manage to sign Trent outright, perhaps they could bring in both. All that’s to say, while the defense struggled after Dallas traded Dorian Finney-Smith to the Brooklyn Nets as part of the package for Kyrie, they have plenty of wing options to fix it.
In the draft, in free agency, or on the trade market.
Upgrading at center
Dallas could also look to upgrade at center.
If so, Cleveland Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen is another player that the Mavs should look to add. If Dallas wants to continue playing in drop coverage, then having a shot-blocker of Allen’s caliber would be wise. Allen isn’t always as forceful as he needs to be in the paint, but he averages 1.3 blocks per game for his career, nearly three times the amount of Dwight Powell (0.5 per game).
What’s more, the Cavs would likely only ask for Hardaway due to their need for a consistent presence at small forward, allowing the Mavs to use their lottery pick however they see fit.
Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela is a similar player that Dallas can make a run at. With backup center Onyeka Okongwu — the sixth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft — in line for a rookie scale contract extension, the Hawks could be motivated to move the nine-year veteran. Capela, who makes $42.9 million over the next two seasons, has averaged 1.5 blocks per game for his career.
Just keep him
At the end of the day, why give up Irving, one of the most efficient, effective, skilled and creative scorers in league history?
Especially with the favorable media coverage he’s received in Dallas focusing on his on-court play. This has been far different than the traveling circus that followed him from Cleveland to Boston to Brooklyn.
Not to oversimplify things but Doncic and Irving average a combined 59.5 points per game, which is elite. Furthermore, Irving has starred beside a similar big-bodied facilitator in LeBron James for a number of seasons. Subsequently, should be little if no doubt about their ability to develop the chemistry the Mavs need.
Nor should there be a question about how formidable the duo can be in the NBA Playoffs. Teams will try desperately to slow down two tough shot-makers that play their best under the brightest lights. Playing off of each other and the rest of their supporting cast, the Mavs will have a legitimate chance at reaching the NBA Finals behind Kyrie and Luka.
So long as they find right formula.
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