Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks Is Among the Worst NBA Trades of the 21st Century

  • The Mavericks acquired Kyrie Irving from the Brooklyn Nets on February 6
  • Dallas has fallen from 4th to 11th in the Western Conference in just two months
  • Irving himself has played well, but the team is faltering because of its composition
  • This is just one of several horrendous NBA trades in the last couple decades
Kyrie Irving
The Dallas Mavericks trading for Kyrie Irving is proving to be a giant mistake. [Image:]

Irving to Mavericks was historically bad

Kyrie Irving and the Dallas Mavericks would attest to the grass not always being greener on the other side.

they are 11th in the West

Dallas traded for Irving on February 6, at which time they were fourth in the Western Conference. With just two games to go in the 2022-23 regular season, they are 11th in the West and a game behind the ten-seed Oklahoma City Thunder, the team that would receive the final invitation to the play-in tournament. 

The calamitous trade is quickly becoming one of the worst in the 21st century because of its negative short-term impact and because Irving, a free agent in the summer, could skip town and leave the Mavs dazed and confused.

Resounding failure

Dallas is only 8-12 with Irving in the lineup; if extrapolated to the entire season, that would give them the fifth-worst record in basketball.

The new-look Mavericks’ glaring failures cannot be attributed directly to Irving, however, who has been brilliant in his new colors. The 31-year-old guard is averaging 27 points, six assists, five rebounds, and shooting splits of 51/39.2/94.7 since arriving in Texas. 

Mavs are failing because of the effects the trade had on their roster composition

Instead, the Mavs are failing because of the effects the trade had on their roster composition. Dorian Finney-Smith, one of the players sent to Brooklyn in the trade package, was the team’s best defender and an elite offensive rebounder from the wing, and his absence has crippled them in both respects. 

As proof, the Mavericks are 24th in defensive rating since the All-Star break. They are 8th offensively, but just cannot get enough stops to translate their high-powered offense into game results.

On top of that, they lost a secondary playmaker in Spencer Dinwiddie that was still effective off the ball, whereas Irving and Luka Doncic both need the ball to be at their best. That was after they let New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, who is now flourishing in his new home, leave in free agency before the season started. 

The worst-case scenario for Dallas is that Irving also departs when the free agency window opens in the offseason. He has indicated that he would be open to staying, although he has made similar remarks before leaving other teams in the past.

It’s been a remarkable fall-off for a team that reached the Western Conference Finals just last season, but how does it compare to the other worst trades in the 21st century?

More of the worst NBA trades

The most infamous exchange of players post-2000 involved the Boston Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets. The former fleeced the latter by sending them an aging trio of Jason Terry, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce for five players and four first-round picks. Two of those picks ended up being Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, and another was used to bring Irving to town. 

The Nets, meanwhile, failed to make it out of the first round of the playoffs every year but one and quickly became one of the worst teams in the league.

The Thunder also made a disastrous deal when they decided they did not want to pay the luxury tax and sent James Harden to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and two first-round picks, one of which became Steven Adams. The Thunder never made it back to the NBA Finals like they did with Harden and lost Kevin Durant to free agency a couple of years later while Harden quickly became a perennial MVP candidate.

little-known defensive star named Kawhi Leonard, for San Antonio Spurs guard George Hill

The Indiana Pacers made their case for one of the worst NBA trades in 2011 by swapping their 15th overall pick, a little-known defensive star named Kawhi Leonard, for San Antonio Spurs guard George Hill. Their new point guard went on to average 10.9 points in five seasons with the team, while Leonard only needed three years to become a Finals MVP and later one of the top five players in the league.

It’s unclear how the Irving to Dallas trade will stack up against these organizational gaffes, but a Western Conference finalist falling from 4th to 11th in just a couple of months is not a great legacy to have.

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