Dallas Mavericks are in a free fall in Western Conference, but it’s not Kyrie Irving’s fault

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Since arriving in Dallas, Kyrie Irving has endeared himself to Mavericks fans, the organization, and his new teammates. So much so, the same pasty Mavs fans who derided him as a ball hog, diva, and entitled Millennial began to jump on the bandwagon and refer to him as “Kai.”

Now, 23 games after Irving was traded to Dallas, the Mavs have plummeted down the Western Conference standings, sitting 11th in the West at 37-40. That record isn’t even good enough to be in Play-In contention. To make it worse, if they don’t fully embrace the tank, their draft pick will convey to the New York Knicks if it lands 11th or higher. That said, none of the Mavs’ woes are because of Irving.

This must be reiterated because recently, an article blamed Kyrie Irving for the Mavs’ recent struggles. It even went so far as to claim “Irving had broken Luka Dončić.” We’ve detailed why coach Jason Kidd is most responsible for what’s ailing Mavs. The lapses by the front office and General Manager Nico Harrison in building a contending roster around their Slovenian star are also to blame.

Mavericks struggles before Kyrie Irving

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The Mavs struggled even before Irving arrived but had made a run to get up to the No. 4 seed when the trade was made. But even then, only a handful of games separated them from dropping down to the Play-In tournament. So things were never exactly perfect. They have gone 6-14 since Kyrie Irving‘s debut. Some of that has been due to extended injuries to both star players. The Mavs are 3-8 when Doncic and Irving played together, 0-2 when only Doncic played, 3-1 when only Irving played, and 1-2 when both were out to injury.

To get Irving, the Mavs made a blockbuster trade, sending starting point guard Spencer Dinwiddie, glue guy and top defender Dorian Finney-Smith, a 2029 first-round pick, and two future second-round picks to the Brooklyn Nets for Irving and Markieff Morris. It was a surprisingly large offer, given how much Irving had diminished his value across the league after his antics with the Nets. But the Mavericks made a move motivated by Dončić reportedly pushing the front office to add star power. Kyrie Irving is the most talented player Dončić has ever played with. But with both being dominant on-ball lead guards and a slew of ill-timed injuries, it’s been difficult for the two to build chemistry on the court.

Since arriving in Dallas, Kyrie Irving is averaging 26.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.2 steals, career-highs rebounds, as well as career-highs in eFG percentage (57.7), free throw percentage (94) and 2-point percentage. And that’s just the stats. Kidd, Dončić, and the rest of his teammates have sung his praises since arriving. ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, who has covered the team for more than 15 years, recently said, “The Mavs’ results since the Kyrie Irving trade have obviously been disappointing, but I’ve only heard praise about his professionalism and locker room presence during his brief time in Dallas. Blaming Luka Doncic’s frustration on Irving isn’t fair or accurate.”

Irving is playing some of the best basketball of his career with the Mavs. He’s one of the few players who actually try every game. Outside of the Mavs’ Big 2, the rest of the team isn’t offering much towards wins.

The Dallas Mavericks’ roster woes

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Josh Green has reverted back to the inconsistency he has often displayed since being drafted in 2020. Rookie Jaden Hardy continues to put up empty stats in losses. Dwight Powell continues to be one of the worst starting bigs in the league. Reggie Bullock is averaging his lowest points per game (7.3) in six seasons. Christian Wood continues to offer erratic scoring and equally erratic defense. Only Maxi Kleber gives the Mavs a genuine player on both sides of the ball, but he has been often injured.

So, no, it’s not Kyrie Irving’s fault Harrison has done a poor job as the GM. Or that Kidd is one of the worst coaches in the NBA. Irving had nothing to do with the impotent roster construction. He has done everything he can, much at a career-high, to ease the historic load his teammate Dončić carries.

Irving’s box plus minus (4.9) is in the top five of his career. His win shares per 48 mins (.202) is top three. He’s been the best running mate Dončić has ever had, and yet, it’s still not enough for the fans who look to Irving as their preferred villain. What tone does that set for his impending free agency this summer? When the season ends, and the Mavericks and their fans are watching younger teams with brighter futures playing on, there will be many to blame. But Irving isn’t one of them.

Lee Escobedo covers the NBA for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @_leeescobedo

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