Just a day after asking for a trade, Kyrie Irving got his wish and was sent to Dallas to join Luka Doncic. The Mavericks put together a package that consisted of Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, an unprotected 2029 first rounder and two second round picks and secured the services of the talented point guard.
Whether this turns out to be a good deal for either team remains to be seen. The potential of a Doncic-Irving offense is off the charts, but the defense will almost surely be an issue and Irving’s track record off the court and in the locker room has been disastrous in the past few seasons. For the Nets, getting two veterans who can help them now is a good way to try to keep Kevin Durant for also asking out, but in terms of pure talent, they downgraded.
Regardless of what happens to the Nets and Mavericks next, the deal could cause ripples around the league. As the trade deadline approaches, here’s a look at how the market could be affected and what that means for the Spurs.
The Mavs and Nets are probably not done dealing
The Nets are currently sitting with the fourth-best record in the East but without Irving’s explosive scoring, they don’t even seem to have a puncher’s chance against the Celtics and Bucks in the postseason. Will Kevin Durant be happy with that or will he ask to be traded? Durant still has three years left in his contract after this season, so it would be harder for him to force a trade, as the fact that he failed to do so in the offseason shows, but he might try again unless the defensive potential of his new supporting cast intrigues him. If it does, Brooklyn would be wise to try to get more talent to make a deep run in the playoffs.
Until Durant expresses his desires, most teams, including the Nets, will likely be patient before making moves, but one franchise that can’t afford to wait is the Mavericks. Dallas’ roster as it currently stands makes little sense for a team that has seemingly gone all in with this trade. Irving is an upgrade over Dinwiddie on offense, but losing height at guard and a solid perimeter defender like Finney-Smith without finding a replacement would almost surely make the 24th best defense in the league even worse. They’ll need to work the phones to avoid having to rely on Reggie Bullock, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Josh Green on the wing and to potentially find a better center than JaVale McGee for their big lineups.
The Spurs should monitor both situations. Just as it was the case with Irving, they could be the perfect third team to facilitate a Durant (or Ben Simmons) trade if the Nets decide to or feel forced to blow it up. As for the Mavs, they could have interest in Josh Richardson and potentially Jakob Poeltl to beef up their rotation. After trading three picks they might be a little hesitant to part with more future draft capital, but they do still have control over some of their upcoming first rounders.
It’s possible the Irving trade grinds trade season to a halt until Durant expresses his wishes, which would not be ideal for the Spurs, but once things get moving again, there could be a lot of opportunities for San Antonio to make deals and acquire some assets.
This trade doesn’t really reveal if the market has been reset or not
The trade market shifted greatly last offseason, when Dejounte Murray, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell all commanded multiple first round picks and pick swaps in transactions. Suddenly, the picks that in other years were heavily coveted and protected started to be flung around with not much worry, leading to a seeming inflation of value for actual players with a proven track record of production. It’s one of the reasons why the Spurs reportedly asking for two first rounders for Poeltl doesn’t feel completely ridiculous.
The period leading up to the trade deadline was interesting because it was going to show whether the trend that started last summer would continue or things would go back to how they used to be, where only true superstars commanded impressive hauls while most franchises were careful not to deplete their coffers for great but not elite players.
Unfortunately, Irving’s situation is so unique that it’s impossible to know if the market has been reset. An All-NBA level guard being moved for two role players and one unprotected pick seems like a low return, but Kyrie is on an expiring contract, has had health issues and is a high-maintenance PR nightmare. The case can be made that Brooklyn didn’t get enough for a player of his caliber, but there was clearly not enough interest from other teams to drive up the price, for understandable but very specific reasons.
It’s simply hard to know if it’s at all reasonable for the Spurs to expect first round picks for any of their veterans based on this trade because the circumstances are special. Until less unique deals are made, we won’t know how the market values players vs. picks now.