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Grading the Mavericks: Luka Doncic is great, Kyrie Irving is not

The Mavericks need to save themselves from the creator of chaos that Irving is

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Mavericks end the week 2-1, with wins at home over Detroit and New Orleans, and a loss in Golden State. Luka Doncic suffered a heel contusion against New Orleans, and will likely miss their game Monday in Utah and have missed their game against the Warriors. Christian Wood could return as soon as Monday, February 6th in Utah.

Team grade: C+

The Mavericks finally finished a week with a winning record, although this one felt like a losing effort. They required a herculean performance from Doncic to beat a Detroit team with the second-worst record at home. After Doncic went down, they almost blew a 27-point third-quarter lead to the Pelicans. And without their superstar, they simply felt outmatched to win a game on the road in Golden State.

The state of this team has stayed consistent in that it is in flux from game to game. You never know what you’re going to get out of them, and at points, it gets hard to watch. Especially without Doncic, they have no identity offensively and even with him their defense has been average when it’s at its best.

Nothing from the three games this week has shown me anything different. With the trade deadline coming up on Thursday, this is a team that needs only to make a move to set themselves up for the future. They need to dump salary if they can or operate “around the fringes” to possibly acquire some small asset to poise themselves for a big swing over the summer. It would be foolish to try and salvage the season with a win-now move.

Straight A’s: Luka Doncic

Doncic had a strong week for his MVP campaign. A 53-point outing against Detroit only resulted in a five-point win. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter, that another player (Spencer Dinwiddie) got into double figures. He followed that up with a 31-point, eight-rebound game against New Orleans in just 23 minutes, before he got hurt.

It is clear how valuable Doncic is to this team. With him on the floor, they are +143 in 1,714 minutes. Without him, they are -118 in 865 minutes. Before he went down, you could feel his “screw everything else, I am going to carry this team by myself” mentality this week. He was taking (and making) every shot, grabbing every rebound, and making every pass when he had to. When he left the game, the offense stalled, the defense ceased to exist, and the life was sucked out of the entire team.

Failing Miserably: The Mavericks’ pursuit of Kyrie Irving

I was highly disappointed when Dallas was first reported to be in trade talks for Irving. The organization has a history of workplace misconduct and even hired Jason Kidd last season, with a domestic violence charge on his record. It is no secret that the Mavericks have been in hot water for things that have gone on behind closed doors, and to say that wanting Kyrie Irving would go back on all the supposed work they have done to try and make up for years of internal insolence would be an understatement.

Irving posted a link to a movie with antisemitic rhetoric in it back in October of 2022, and since was suspended, dropped from endorsements, and forced to meet with the anti-defamation league. After his return to the Nets organization, he refused to apologize until he was absolutely forced to and used an argument that he hadn’t seen the entire film and only agreed with parts of it as his defense.

Firstly, along with being offensive and insensitive, this is incredibly short-sighted on Irving’s part. He failed to see what he had done wrong and caused a lot of hurt by doing so. Secondly, as it pertains to basketball, he once again proved why he cannot be trusted in the long term. Dallas has one shot to pair Luka Doncic with a second star. That they would even consider wasting that on a guy who is the league’s biggest headache, has blown up every team he has been on and has played fewer games than Kristaps Porzingis since 2019 is an offense only punishable by exile. Not to mention they would be adding another guy with a past of poor decisions to an organization still reeling from its history of impropriety. Shame on them, it would be a mistake to have Irving on the team after the deadline, and a crime to sign him to the extension he wants this summer.

Extra Credit: Dallas’ training staff

One of the few good consistencies in Dallas throughout the years has been its training staff. They seemingly get things right a lot of the time and help guys recover from their injuries successfully. With the imminent return of Christian Wood this week, and news that Maxi Kleber has started practicing after tearing his hamstring (with which Khris Middleton missed 150 days), the training staff deserves their flowers for the job they’re doing.