The Mavericks entered the season with high ambitions after reaching the Western Conference Finals in 2022.
Missing the playoffs completely is an obvious sign that they need to make big changes to their roster. They must also decide what to do with Kyrie Irving, who could become an unrestricted free agent.
Here are the questions they’ll be asking and the tools they’ll have at their disposal during the offseason.
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What kind of contract will Kyrie Irving sign?
Irving is in the final year of his current contract, which has earned him $36.5 million this season. The Mavericks can extend him by two years for around $83 million or sign him as a free agent. His maximum would be over $270 million for five years, but the two sides could always negotiate a shorter deal.
While the extension route is much more palatable for the Mavs, it’s probably off the table. Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes has reported that Irving isn’t interested in signing one and will be testing free agency this summer.
Mark Cuban told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon that signing Irving is the Mavs’ top priority. The prospect of losing him for nothing would be an absolute disaster from a visual point of view.
It’s a sunk cost, but former Mavericks senior analyst Jeremias Engelmann laid out the assets the front office squandered to get to this point. It’s not nice.
If Kyrie leaves in the offseason, the Mavs will have turned
a premiere in 2021
a premiere 2023 (or ’24, ’25, Top-10 protected each year)
a 2029 first, and
Dorian Finney Smith
into a deal with Davis Bertans that will pay out between $22 million and $33 million through 2025
— Jeremias Engelmann (@JerryEngelmann) April 4, 2023
Could the Lakers still sign Kyrie Irving?
LeBron James expressed disappointment after the February trade deadline when the Lakers couldn’t find a way to add Irving.
“I can’t sit here and say I’m not disappointed that I’m not able to land such talent, someone I’ve had great chemistry with and know I have great chemistry with on the floor have, that can help you win championships. in my mind, in my eyes” James told ESPN’s Mike Wilbon.
Despite this interest from James, numerous connected reporters have stated that a Kyrie-LeBron reunion is unlikely to happen.
Substack’s Marc Stein has written that while Los Angeles and Phoenix are the most discussed landing spots for Irving outside of Dallas, there is no evidence of any actual interest from either organization. The Athletic’s Jovan Buha has also reported that the Lakers are unlikely to pursue Irving this summer.
There are many reasons the Lakers and Irving are not a good match financially. The Lakers have their own free agents to re-sign, including D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves.
Irving would also have to take a pay cut to join a burned-out Lakers team. They could only open around $30 million in Cap space to sign him, which is well short of what the Mavericks could offer.
What other teams are realistic landing spots for Kyrie Irving?
There aren’t many easy landing spots for Irving. The teams that have the maximum cap space available to sign him are mostly in the rebuild phase. These include Magic, Pacers, Pistons, Rockets and Spurs.
The only interesting option is jazz. They will have more than $40 million at their disposal this summer. The Athletic’s Sam Amick reported that Jazz CEO Danny Ainge “doesn’t have the same reservations about Irving that many do,” and these two have a history stretching back to their days together in Boston.
If Irving ends up elsewhere, it will likely be through a sign-and-trade. This requires the cooperation of the Mavs.
What options do the Mavericks have for sign-and-trade deals with Kyrie Irving?
The sign-and-trade idea sounds good, but there may not be as much interest from competitors.
Last summer, Irving released a list of preferred teams in a sign-and-trade scenario, including the Clippers, Heat, Knicks, Lakers, Mavericks, and Sixers. These teams weren’t interested enough to close a deal. Could that change a year later?
Maybe not. Irving’s season hasn’t exactly increased its value from a year ago. Stein has said on his #thisleague UNCUT podcast that he hasn’t found a team outside of the Mavs interested in taking on Irving.
What are the Mavericks’ greatest needs?
Aside from the Irving question, the Mavericks still have a lot of holes to close.
The problems with the team are pretty obvious. The Mavs didn’t have the defensemen to go around Doncic and Irving, leaving them with a bottom-10 defense for most of the year. Doncic admitted this in his comments to reporters towards the end of the season.
“I don’t think the offense is the problem. I’ve always said that. It’s our defense.” said Doncic. “I think anyone can score with us. Whoever it is, anyone can score with us.”
Unfortunately, every team is looking for players who can defend and shoot. They tend to be very expensive, and the Mavericks are limited in their ability to add them.
How much money do the Mavericks have to spend?
If the Mavs let Irving go, they could open about $24 million in cap space. That’s not enough to sign another star, but they could add some role players to their roster. They could add another high-quality rotary player or two, excluding the mid-tier (roughly $11.4 million).
If they bring Irving back, their options are even more limited. They will only have small-cap exceptions that they can use, like the mid-level taxpayer exception (about $7 million).
Think Yuta Watanabe or some other low minute 3 and D wings as options.
What will the Mavericks have to deal with?
The free hand will not be a panacea for the Mavericks’ problems. So what about trades?
The status of the Mavs’ 2023 first-round election is up in the air. The pick is top 10 protected, and they have about an 80 percent chance of keeping it if they keep their spot as the 10th worst team. But if they fall out of that top 10, they’ll send the 11th or 12th pick in the draft to the Knicks.
They have some promising young players who would certainly attract interest from other teams. Josh Green has had a resounding third season and rookie Jaden Hardy has been the season’s most pleasant surprise. It would be hard to lose any of them, so the return should be pretty good.
To put it simply, there are no easy fixes for the Mavs here. They’ve painted themselves into a corner with bad moves in recent years, including the mind-bending decision to let Jalen Brunson run last summer.
Their books are full of bad deals, so their best course of action is probably to bring Irving back and add some players on the fringes with their small-cap exceptions. You also need to get creative when trading as there is a lot to do.