The Mavericks are going to be a problem and have problems
A quick take on Dallas, barring other moves.
Good morning. Let’s basketball.
Boy Bitten by a Lizard, Caravaggio, 1593-94
Let’s assume the Mavericks don’t do anything else. I think that assumption is probably not wise because Christian Wood appears to be a great candidate to flip for a good player better suited to playing on a team with two high-scoring All-Star guards. But let’s imagine this is it.
The Mavericks already have a top-10 offense, even without any major scoring threats next to Luka this season. Luka is one of the few players in the NBA who is a top-10 offense unto himself. (Nikola Jokic and Kevin Durant are two others.) Adding Kyrie Irving, a great floor spacer and space attacker, will help the offense even more, both in the regular season and in the playoffs.
To put a finer point on it, in the regular season, the Mavericks struggled mightily to create offense with Luka off the floor. The only other consistently capable perimeter creator was Spencer Dinwiddie. Dinwiddie is a solid player, a fourth starter on a really good team. He was basically the Mavericks’ No. 2 player on offense, sharing that title with Wood (who typically comes off the bench for Dallas). The Mavericks were so desperate for capable ballhandling on the perimeter beyond Luka and Dinwiddie that they briefly signed Kemba Walker this season! Obviously, this is a need to preserve Luka’s juice for the playoffs. Kyrie fills the need better than any gettable option out there. He will instantly reduce the ballhandling, playmaking and offensive creation burden on Luka when they play together. If Jason Kidd staggers them aggressively and Kyrie plays more than 50% of the Mavericks’ games, the non-Luka minutes ballhandling issues are resolved. And when Luka is dominating the ball — which is a good chunk of the time he’s on the court — Kyrie will be one of the best spot-up shooters in the league. For the offense, it’s a total no-brainer win, assuming Kyrie is consistently available, which has not been the case for about a half-decade, and not always due to injury.
In the playoffs, with concentrated tactics focused on slowing the dynamic backcourt, Luka and Kyrie together will cause absolute havoc. Jalen Brunson is a great scorer and ballhandler. You saw what he and Luka did to torture the Jazz last year. Kyrie’s better. Coaches will absolutely lose sleep over this.
But again, the Mavericks already have a top-10 offense. The defense has been atrocious, and they just traded a decent-to-good perimeter defender in Dinwiddie and a top-tier wing defender in Dorian Finney-Smith. Kyrie isn’t the worst perimeter defender in the leagure. In certain situations he’s probably a touch better than Luka. But he’s not good on that end, not consistently. He’s a downgrade from Dinwiddie, and there’s no one currently on the roster to replace DFS’s impact.
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