30 Teams in 30 Days | 2023

30 teams in 30 days: Mavericks decide to run it back with star backcourt

Dallas is returning with the electrifying duo of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving as it looks to bounce back from last season.

Kyrie Irving is back with Luka Doncic and the Mavs after re-signing with the team in the offseason.

Key additions

  • F Grant Williams (trade)
  • C Richaun Homes (trade)
  • C Dereck Lively II (draft)
  • F Olivier-Maxence Prosper (draft)
  • G Seth Curry (free agent)
  • G Dante Exum (free agent) 

Key subtraction

  • F Reggie Bullock

Last season

Less than a year after reaching the Western Conference Finals, the Mavericks felt rather maxed out. So they swung a midseason deal, and a controversial one, for Kyrie Irving to pair with their resident ball-dominant point guard, Luka Doncic. The two struggled on the court together, going just 5-11, and the Mavericks failed to reach the postseason, a significant backpedal. That failure wasn’t totally the fault of Kyrie and Luka; the supporting cast was blah and therefore so much fell on the shoulders of the All-Star guards. The Mavericks also missed the defense provided by Dorian Finney-Smith, who was sacrificed in the Irving trade. Also, Kyrie played only 20 games for Dallas. The offseason goal was to re-sign Irving, in spite of everything, and give the duo more support by upgrading the surrounding cast.

Summer summary

The Mavs backed themselves in a corner when they traded for Kyrie just months before he hit free agency. That’s what happens when you do these types of deals. In order to justify the trade, they had to re-sign him, almost at any cost, so the leverage was in his favor.

As it turned out, everyone is happy. Dallas will keep Irving for at least three more years — unless he or they get tired of each other before then — and he will make $126 million, a fat paycheck for someone who couldn’t get a significant offer the previous summer and had to settle for his player option.

So the Mavericks are treading where some teams wouldn’t dare. Given Kyrie’s history of unpredictability — Dallas is his fourth team since 2017 — there is a risk here. However, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says Kyrie is just “misunderstood,” which is one of those descriptions used when there’s a disconnect between the public and the player. One thing is very clear: Kyrie is the most talented teammate Doncic has ever had. He’s one of the top guards in basketball even at age 31. His strengths are playmaking and shotmaking, and the Mavericks believe those are the elements needed next to Luka.

Once that was done, Mavs GM Nico Harrison, who joined the organization a year earlier, finally had his first chance to put his vision in place. Harrison went looking for depth and a mixture of youth and veterans and accomplished both.

Perhaps his most impressive move was dumping Davis Bertans, along with the No. 10 pick as a sweetener, for the 12th pick, which became Lively, who fulfills a need for size in the post. Another young piece arrived from the first round with Prosper, who could make the rotation with a strong camp showing.

Next was veteran help. The Mavericks welcomed back Curry, who had a decent run in Dallas years ago with his outside shooting before joining the Sixers and Nets. Holmes was discarded by Sacramento after falling out of favor, but he’s an energy guy who, again, comes to the rescue of a Dallas team that isn’t very talented at the strength positions.

Speaking of the front line, more toughness was added with Williams. Although he’s just 6-foot-6, Williams has a well-earned reputation for guarding taller players, along with shooting the corner 3-pointer. He’s slotted in the former role of Finney-Smith. Dallas also re-signed starting center Dwight Powell. All of these players came at minimal cost to Dallas, along with Exum, a former lottery pick who flamed out in Utah, then went overseas to spruce up his reputation in order to get another crack at the NBA.

And so, from both a financial and rotational standpoint, Harrison achieved his offseason goals, and more. This is arguably the most talented and deepest team of the Luka era, but of course, everything sounds fine in summertime.

Up next: New Orleans Pelicans | Previously: Milwaukee Bucks

> 30 teams in 30 days: Complete schedule

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Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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